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Monday, 10 September 2012

"J" is for Jackal

CCF has carried out a number of camera trapping surveys, and also maintains a network of cameras positioned for ongoing monitoring of the wildlife on our land.  While we are mainly focussed on cheetahs, there are many other species out there, and the cameras will trigger no matter what passes them by.  In this series of weekly blog entries, I will use these pictures to illustrate some of the wealth of animal life in Namibia - one species per week.  I hope you will enjoy seeing a little more of our world here in the bush.

The jackal is the most heavily persecuted carnivore in Southern Africa and has been relentlessly hunted, trapped and poisoned for decades.  Fortunately for the species, they are extremely clever animals, and seem capable of surviving almost any amount of human hostility, while continuing to prey on small-stock species such as sheep and goats.  A former colleague of mine once described a fascinating video sequence taken in NW South Africa that showed a jackal and a gin trap… The jackal approached cautiously, sniffed the trap, circled the trap, stared at the trap, and then finally, lightening fast and quite deliberately, triggered it with one foreleg without loosing so much as a hair in the process! Many jackals are killed by gin traps, poison and bullets, but those that survive seem to breed ever trickier offspring, and each generation becomes harder to eradicate.  Millions of Rand have been pumped into schemes to eradicate Jackals, but none of it seems to slow them down.

At CCF, where animals are not persecuted, the jackals are commonly seen.  Elsewhere, in places where they are actively hunted, they are almost never seen by human eyes.

The black-backed jackal exists in two very distinct sub-species, one in southern Africa, and the other 1000 km away in East Africa (where it's sometimes known as the Silver-Backed Jackal).  There are no reliable estimates of their population, but it appears to be stable, and the IUCN lists them as "Least Concern".

The black backed jackals prefer open grassland or woody savannas, as opposed to dense bush and can be found up to 3000m amsl.  They appear quite fox-like, are up to a metre long, and weigh around 10-12 kg.  They will opportunistically hunt, but may also try to take carcasses away from other larger predators, including cheetah.  Jackals are intensely family oriented, and both the parents and older siblings will aggressively defend young pups, and attempt to keep other predators far away from their dens. 

Jackals are seen day and night on camera traps, and are a common, and welcome, sight during our monthly waterhole counts.  We have also seen on a couple of occasions a rare, pure white jackal, probably an albino.

-- Rob Thompson, Volunteer

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