The joys and tribulations of a field biologist (and hermit) studying
mongooses in the South African bush.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Yesterday, while checking one of Koppiekat's favourite termite mounds, I came upon a jackal.
Yes, jackals eat mongooses.
But not this one. This one had gone to its last great mongoose hunt in the sky.
Given the location of the body, I wondered at first if the mongooses had pulled off some David-and-Goliath type of act; maybe standing on one another's shoulders (like the sheep in Wallace and Gromit's A close shave) to pull down their mighty foe.
But up close, I could see that the newly dead jackal had huge puncture wounds in its throat. These stab wounds were not only massive, they were alarmingly widely spaced, and that - combined with the aforesaid 'newly' - had me glancing nervously over my shoulder. There wasn't much blood about and the jackal looked as if it had been choked to death, in classic big cat style. Presumably it had fallen foul of one of the leopards who live in the koppies. I actually took a (yucky) photo!
This Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) either suffocated to death or, in its death throes, decided to stitch-up its arch enemy by posing that way.
What I don't understand is why the leopard didn't eat it. Richard Estes (author of The Behavior Guide to African Mammals) describes how a leopard visited his camp in the Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania) almost nightly for several weeks, and during that time it brought back 11 jackals, to consume beside his cabin. Had my inopportune arrival at Koppiekats' mound RK001 disturbed the killer (more hasty over-the-shoulder glances)? It was at this point that I decided to resume my search for my innocent, harmless little mongooses.
Later in the morning, I returned to find two bateleur eagles happily feasting on the carcass.
Well, it's an ill wind...
Bateleurs (Terathopius ecaudatus) are very common here and, despite what the books say, they don't seem to prey on mongooses (favouring carrion). At least that's what the mongooses believe (they don't alarm at cruising bateleurs), and they should know.
Photo taken by Tollie Botha and borrowed from here.
Having spent 16 years living in remote places in the African bush studying the social behaviour of mongooses, my own is non-existent. I survived 8 years in the desert, at the Kalahari Meerkat Research Project (i.e. Meerkat Manor), and am now doing research on dwarf mongooses in the lowveld of NE South Africa.
If you come across a mistake on this blog, please let me know. I really want to learn new things, and to get them right!
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