21 March 2011 by Julienne du Toit

In Secret Praise of Jackals

Jackals (the black-backed kind) are the bane of most farmers. They eat small livestock and are generally considered vermin in rural areas. A pity, in my opinion, because they are quite lovely. But then, I’m not a livestock farmer.

The first way you connect with jackals is that plaintive soaring cry they give at night.  You wake before dawn to hear that song, and a little thrill runs through you, because it reminds you that you’re back in the bush.

Also, you have to admire jackals. (Again, I hope no farmers are reading this.) They are the ultimate opportunists. Undaunted by being shot at and generally persecuted, they have seized the chance to become stronger as a species.

Many now refer to them as Super Jackals. All the unwary or stupid ones have been picked off, and only the most cunning and intelligent have remained to breed. It’s evolution happening in our lifetime - fascinating to see.

But enough of evolution. The next time you see a jackal, it’s enough just to watch them. They trot along with level backs, looking shifty and confident at the same time. They have beautiful bushy tails and fascinating social lives. You’ll often see them in pairs.

I seem to be pulled towards animals that are survivors, and this is another one. Jackals will eat pretty much anything, although they’re not as ominivorous as hyenas, which have to be deterred from eating aeroplane tyres by walls of thorns.

Jackals will clean up the leavings from the kill or sometimes kill small animals themselves. But they’re not ashamed to eat berries , grasses and insects if that’s all there is. In fact, there’s a tree called the jackalberry, because these doggy carnivores quite favour the fruit.

But I mostly keep my admiration for jackals to myself when visiting farmers.

Category: Wildlife

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