African Golden Wolf
The African golden wolf (Canis lupaster) is a newly discovered species that had previously been misidentified as the golden jackal (Canis aureus), a species found in Europe and Asia that is very similar in appearance, until genetic evidence revealed in 2015 that these African canids are a new and distinct species, most closely related to grey wolves and coyotes.
The conservation status of this new species requires urgent assessment, yet there is a general lack of information on its abundance, threats, and ecology, particularly in North Africa. Though population sizes are currently unknown, across their entire range golden wolves appear to be declining
The Atlas Mountains are biodiversity hotspots, with exceptionally high biodiversity and endemism, yet face considerable threat from human activities. The region has experienced the recent extinction of most large carnivores, including Barbary lions and Barbary leopards, while striped hyenas and caracals are also now extirpated from much of the Atlas Mountains. This leaves golden wolves as the sole remaining large carnivore throughout much of the region.
The presence of predators is crucial for maintaining ecosystem diversity and stability. Predators play a vital role in controlling herbivore populations and influence vegetation communities not only through direct effects on herbivore abundance but also by influencing their distribution, habitat selection, and foraging behaviour. Conservation efforts focused on keystone species like top predators can be most effective in protecting entire ecosystems and thus the Atlas Golden Wolf Project hopes that the charismatic, newly-discovered African golden wolf can act as an effective flagship to promote support for conservation of the Atlas Mountain biodiversity hotspot. Click here to read more about our research sites.