Guests were entertained at the end of their game drive, not far from the lodge, when a jackal cheekily ran up to and then ignored a large kudu. The sun had risen, the game drive had been spectacular with two large male lions loping along in front of the vehicle and hunger pangs for breakfast were stirring among the guests. As the game viewer came to the end of the track, a stately kudu bull posed serenely in the early morning light.
A feathery flicker of movement caught our attention on the other side of the track. Blended against the dappled foliage, a solitary statue revealed an alert, black-backed jackal keenly observing our presence…
The jackal stared intently…surveyed the scene…and finally…trotted down in front of us.
Once in the undergrowth, the jackal used a botanical disguise to play a comical game of hide and seek with a creature that far outweighed him in size and strength. Each time the romping pair came too close, the kudu lowered his horns in graceful warning. The jackal nonchalantly ducked into a nearby bush to join his mate in a game of frisky tag. The kudu raised his head bemused at the energetic antics of the two jackal. Biting, sniffing, cuddling, scratching, and generally two active busy-bodies.
The jackal appeared to tire and lay down, in full view of the guests, with his back to the kudu as if to shun him for being so easily dismissed. He distractedly nibbled at his fur whilst keeping his ears pricked towards the vehicle and twitching then back with a way listen in case the kudu tread too close. Finally, after attending to an itch on his back, he succumbed to a sunrise snooze.
Some interesting facts about the black-backed jackal or Canis mesomelas, as referred to scientifically, were obtained from Wildlife South Africa :
- They occur throughout South Africa in varied habitats but prefer drier areas and usually avoid wetlands and marsh.
- They are extremely cunning, very adaptable and have a keen sense of smell.
- Diet is a range of small antelope, hares, reptiles, rodents, insects, birds and eggs. In addition, some types of wild fruit, berries and even new-born calves.
- The biggest threat to jackal are human but in the wild they are vulnerable to lions, leopards, hyena, cheetah and other jackal may kill their cubs. Large eagles and pythons can also prey on them.
- Jackals are considered pests in farming areas and are usually killed.
- Mature pairs are territorial, youngsters breed prolifically which is why it does not help hugely to shoot out jackal in an area with problem animals.
- It utters a haunting call which resonate clearly at night and forms part of the nocturnal African bush safari experience.
(All photographs in this article have been taken by, and are copyrighted to, Terry L Stallard)