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Africa Geographic
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Africa Geographic Travel

Jackals, humans and the bigger picture

The black-backed jackal is an animal that is heavily persecuted by farmers in many places in southern Africa.


The jackal is an interesting and intriguing animal in its own right. Jackals exhibit a range of interesting behavior and social characteristics. They are monogamous. Mated jackal pairs sometimes have offspring from previous years acting as helpers with raising pups. When it comes to getting food, jackals are both capable hunters and crafty scavengers. I have watched black-backed jackals digging rodents and insect larvae out of the Kalahari sands. On another occasion a jackal ran down and caught a Cape turtle dove in the short grass of the Savuti channel. At Mombo, a jackal was photographed killing a sub-adult impala, all on its own.


They habitually follow honey-badgers with the aim of grabbing any fast-moving prey that the badger may dig up but not catch. When scavenging at carcasses, jackals are sometimes quite fearless and will nip at the back legs and tails of spotted hyaenas before darting away. They take this risk in order to distract the hyaena for long enough to enable the jackal to grab a mouthful of food. Of course you only get to see this when jackals are living in places where they don’t run away from humans. In protected areas like the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari, jackals are often relaxed enough that one can spend time watching them.


We tend to identify with those animals that have characteristics that we either share ***or*** admire, just like the black-backed jackal which is monogamous, social, resourceful and fearless. And yet, despite this, it is unfortunate that in parts of South Africa, the jackal is still despised and heavily persecuted. There are still small towns in farming areas where it is not uncommon to see pickups driving around with jackal skins draped across their bodywork, usually serving to advertise some sort of predator control business. Conservation organizations have been working for many years to try and change the attitudes of farmers towards the jackal but it is not an easy task.

Travel with us

I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page