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Common property resource management of an Afro-alpine habitat: supporting a population of the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis)

Ashenafi, Zelealem Tefera (2001) Common property resource management of an Afro-alpine habitat: supporting a population of the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94179) (KAR id:94179)

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In areas where national parks are unlikely to be economically viable or socially desirable, an alternative approach is required. Community-led conservation initiatives are one possible approach. Their eventual success requires both an understanding of the ecosystem itself and of the interaction between the indigenous population and the varying components of the ecosystem that they utilise. In this thesis I investigate the indigenous common property resource management system in the Guassa area of Menz in the central highlands of Ethiopia, and the consequences of resource utilisation by the community on the populations of rodents, and of the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf. The area traditionally has been, and still is, a valuable natural resource for the local community that depend on it primarily for thatching grass, firewood and grazing.

The indigenous resource management system was structured under an indigenous resource management institution, known locally as the Qero system, for around 400 years. The system was based on descent groups from founding fathers who agreed on division of the land in 17th century, and further supported by the authority of the church. The function of the Qero system was the regulation and equitable distribution of natural resources among the user community, and it functioned by enacting and enforcing various bye-laws. The Qero system declined in 1975 following changes in land-tenure and rural land reform introduced following the 1974 revolution. In the case of Guassa, incomers previously excluded from the resource gained equal access to the resource through their constituent peasant association. When it became apparent that the resource management system was declining, the community responded by establishing the Guassa Committee, which contains heavy community representation, but remains in line with the existing political and social order.

The community still generally retains a positive attitude to the Guassa area, and recognise its value in providing vital resources. However, opinions on the value of the resources, the success of past management, and the options for future management, all vary according to levels of past and present control, and distance of their village from the Guassa area. Peasant association members once excluded, but now enjoying prime control and living nearby, believe current management is effective, and wish it to continue. In contrast, peasant associations dominated by descent groups formerly in sole charge of Guassa, and living further away, see current management as ineffective and, rather than expecting any return to the Qero system, wish for an element of state control to correct ineffective community management.

The resources of the Guassa are widely used by the community. Grass is still collected for thatching, mainly in the dry season, from the dominant # $%&(() grassland community, but the closed season is not as rigorously enforced as under the Qero system. Firewood is also collected, mainly in the dry season, mainly from the Euryops-Alchemilla shrubland community. Cattle and other livestock are also grazed in the Guassa, which is an important dry season refuge, and mainly utilise the Mima mound community. Several species of rodent live in the Guassa grasslands and their community structure differs between habitat types and their activity differs between day and night. Nevertheless, the current levels of resource use by humans have no overall effect on community structure, but each rodent species is affected differently by each form of use in different habitats, some showing increases in abundance in relation to use and others showing decreases in abundance.

Rodents provide the main prey (88.1%) of the Ethiopian wolf, and rodent density was the main determinant of the habitats selected by the Ethiopian wolf. The home range sizes of individuals and packs, and group sizes, of Ethiopian wolves in the human-dominated Guassa area are similar to those in the relatively undisturbed landscape the Bale Mountains National Park. Furthermore, time spent foraging by wolves was not affected by the presence of humans or livestock closeby. Despite little apparent disturbance of wolves by humans or livestock, the Guassa area only supported a population of approximately 20 Ethiopian wolves, at a somewhat lower density than wolves in Bale Mountains.

Lacking data on population trends of wolves in Guassa, it was not possible to determine if this lower density arose from carrying capacity issues on the one hand or persecution as a result of alleged nuisance value to sheep on the other hand. Nevertheless, overall the local community had a positive attitude towards the wildlife of the Guassa in general, and to the wolf in particular, although many believed that the Ethiopian wolf population had declined. Predation of sheep was the main concern, although sheep loss per household was 0.01% per year

Although the indigenous resource management system was not designed to conserve wildlife, it has certainly allowed the continued co-existence of wildlife with the local community. As perhaps the second largest population of the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf remaining, the Guassa area represents an interesting model of community led management that has had the resilience to resist modernising forces. However, as the human population of the region continues to increase, it is important to ensure that the community continues utilise the natural resources sustainably. This will require the empowerment of the community so that they opt for continued sustainable conservation rather than de facto open access.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Leader-Williams, Nigel
Thesis advisor: Coulson, Tim
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94179
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Community based conservation
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2022 14:34 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2022 15:13 UTC
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