Our research aims to understand and conserve the African golden wolf and Atlas Mountain biodiversity using a mixture of ecological, molecular genetic and social science techniques, with three main areas of focus: Behavioural Ecology, Conservation Status and Threats, and Human-Predator Conflict.
Knowledge of a species’ ecology is crucial for developing informed conservation plans, yet very little is known of North African golden wolves. To address this knowledge gap, the Atlas Golden Wolf Project gathers fundamental information on the behavioural ecology of Atlas golden wolves. This information is crucial for identifying appropriate management strategies, understanding the differences between North African wolves and other populations and understanding the keystone role that wolves play in the Atlas Mountains community.
Furthermore, the Atlas Mountains are a unique environment for the species, where African golden wolves face cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. One of our research focuses is to investigate how Atlas wolves adapt their behaviour and ecology to cope with this extreme environment.
Conservation Status and Threats
Dramatic population declines of golden wolves in Morocco predicts their extinction within decades if these trends continue. We therefore aim to assess the population size of golden wolves in the study areas and investigate what are likely the greatest long-term conservation threats to the species, including loss of genetic diversity, loss of habitat and prey, competition with sympatric canids and hybridization with abundant feral dogs.
Human persecution from conflict over livestock depredation is the greatest immediate threat to the survival of Atlas golden wolves. The coexistence of humans and carnivores requires integration of ecological and social components, not only to reduce livestock depredation but also increase peoples' tolerance towards carnivores. The Atlas Golden Wolf Project therefore aims to quantify, understand, and mitigate human-wolf conflict by a) studying livestock predation patterns to develop prevention strategies based on scientific evidence, and b) conducting sociodemographic research on attitudes and behaviours towards predators to develop targeted outreach and education initiatives to increase tolerance.
Monitoring the levels of conflict over time, including livestock depredation and local's attitudes, allows direct, objective quantification of the effectiveness of conflict mitigation strategies.