Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jackal matters

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.


  1. Now this is an interesting question Lynda. Could be cheetah or hyaena too could it not? Maybe it got too close to one of their dens?

    I love the Bateleurs. They fly so effortlessly.

  2. If the jackal was too close to one of their dens, Lynda was probably also too close to one of their dens. Do you actually come into close proximity with big cats often Lynda?

  3. Joan,
    Ah, a whodunnit!
    Yes, I might be unjustly accusing the leopards, but cheetahs and hyenas are quite scarce at my study site. In contrast, leopards are frequently slinking around, leaving their telltale prints and droppings at that location. If I suddenly stop posting you'll know there was a den nearby...

  4. Jane,
    Only leopards.
    They like to hang out along rivers (where I live) and in rocky areas (where I work) because the extra cover helps them to sneak up on edible things (hopefully not me).
    I've met them on foot only four times, and they're very well behaved, fleeing immediately (they must know about my trusty pepper spray).
    There was one hanging around the garden last night (the bushbucks went crazy giving their alarm barks) and I found pug marks beside the river this afternoon.


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