Shopping Cart -

Your cart is currently empty.
Continue Shopping
This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the United Kingdom version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > January-March 2019 (85) > Day of the jackal

Day of the jackal

Never again ignore this busy opportunist of the bush, for its presence usually reveals something intriguing going on. By Mike Unwin

Yip, yip, yip!

It was a jackal that announced my very first leopard sighting. Two jackals, to be precise. I was sitting in the darkness of Nyamandhlovu viewing platform in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, watching the moonlit waterhole, when a slinky, feline silhouette approached to drink. Two smaller, dog-like silhouettes trotted close behind, as though playing grandmother’s footsteps. They yipped insistently as they tailed the big cat.

I was reminded of this incident last year during a night-drive in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park. Rounding a bend, we met a large male lion, lying down and roaring into the darkness. Behind him stood a black-backed jackal (the same species I’d seen in Hwange), so close that it had to dodge the swishing tail. The proximity seemed suicidal. Was this some kind of dare? What if the lion turned around?

Both these images seemed to come straight from the pages of The Jungle Book, in which Tabaqui the jackal trots along behind Sher Khan the tiger. “Out!” exclaims the indignant wolf, when Tabaqui approaches his den. “Out and hunt with thy master.” The implication is clear: the jackal is a parasite, a sycophant, a mischief-making “dishlicker”. And Kipling was not the first to depict India’s jackals in this way. “One day life of a lion is better than a hundred years life of a jackal”, proclaimed Tipu Sultan, the great Muslim ruler.

Today, this image still clings to jackals. As a safari sighting, they enjoy none of the kudos of big cats, wild dogs (their canine relatives) or even much-disparaged hyenas. I’ve even heard a guide report ‘nothing about’ over the radio, while staring right at one. But, as with most prejudices, our antipathy is born of ignorance. Learn more about these fascinating animals — and spend some time watching their fascinating antics — and they will soon command your attention.

Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Travel Africa - January-March 2019 (85)
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - January-March 2019 (85)
Or 399 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only £ 2.75 per issue
Or 1099 points

View Issues

About Travel Africa

Africa's changing cultural landscape • Safaris for body and soul • Top spots for you to go this year • Nature's Best Photography • Likoma Island • Jackals • Travelling with teenagers • Skeleton Coast lions... and much more!