Monkeys and wolves: an unexpected alliance

Animals never cease to amaze us, changing our view of their nature several times over by displaying behaviour that is totally ‘out of character’ with our common, stereotypical beliefs. The wolf, ‘nominated animal’ of Almo Nature and protagonist of The Promise by Gabriele Salvatores, does not disappoint on this front. A recent intriguing discovery of an unlikely alliance between wolf and monkey has given us cause to reflect on the wolf’s collaborative nature, not just with its own kind in its impressive social organisation of the pack but with other species, including humans!

Wolves and baboons: a surprising alliance in Ethiopia’s highlands

In spite of all the prejudices about the nature of predator, the Ethiopian wolf has proven to be a great strategist. Observations by Vivek Venkataraman, primatologist at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire (USA) and author of a study on the uplands of Guassa in Northern and Central Ethiopia, has highlighted this unknown aspect. Surprisingly, the predator has established a true peaceful coexistence with the gelada monkeys – a type of baboon. In fact, the two animals walk peacefully among one another with no sign of attack or defence. Even the baby baboons remain unharmed in the presence of the canids that look similar to foxes, while the wolves appear to benefit from greater success hunting their main prey, the rodents that often surface near the foraging baboons. But quite how this unique exchange works still remains a mystery. It is not clear whether the baboons flush out the rodents with their foraging activities or if the rodents are fooled in to thinking they are safe to leave their burrows by the wolves’ ability to blend in with the peaceable mammals. What is known however, is that the wolves are significantly more successful hunting their prey among the baboons than not.

The unusual pact for mutual survival echoes the theories surrounding early humans’, (the Homo sapiens) hunting alliance with wolves thousands of years ago and the ‘compromise’ some of the species made with man, leading to their domestication.

Knowing the wolf: a long road, paved with prejudices

This fascinating discovery adds more complexity to the already intriguing nature of the wolf, the central focus of Almo Nature’saLmorecharity efforts. The numerous initiatives dedicated to the simultaneous protection of the predators and Italian farmers fearful of attacks on their livestock, are a sign of Almo Nature’s determination to the change the farmers’ mind-set about co-existing peacefully with the wolf – a hard task to pull off particularly when the wolf regularly faces bad press coverage and biases. For example, a recent story reported in the French newspaper Le Monde featured the case of a sixteen-year-old boy who pretended he was attacked by a pack of wolves. His false allegations provoked unfounded alarmism about the safety of wolves in the region. In fact, fears over the safety of co-existing with wolfs should be dampened by the precision of studies and statistics that show that the risk of a wolf attack in Europe and in North America is very low, despite an increase in wolf numbers. In addition, and above all, human beings should be reassured that man is not among the wolf’s natural prey so being hunted as such would be an unlikely scenario.