Jackals, the cleaners of Pelican Point

Jackals are not endangered in Namibia and are regularly seen on farms, lodges, Etosha and even in our Namib desert. They are known to be opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat anything they can find. Whether it be fruits, plants, mammals or even birds. 

Where is the strangest place to find jackals?

Perhaps the strangest of places to find jackals is at Pelican Point in Walvis Bay and along the Skeleton Coast, because Pelican Point is a long stretch Peninsula that is surrounded by the ocean and Skeleton Coast is where the Desert and the ocean meet so there is little water for the jackals to drink at either of these places. These jackals have adapted to drink less water than usual, because they get some of their water from the meat that they eat.

Jackals are a very important part of the ecosystem at Pelican Point and along the Skeleton Coast, because they eat the dead seals and birds, which makes them natural cleaners, preventing the spread of disease and keeping the environment relatively clean. If they become too friendly with humans, and start eating human food, either by going through bins in towns or being fed by us, they will no longer do this important cleaning job. This could make the spread of disease higher and the seal colonies will be even stinkier with rotting meat laying around. 

Jackals look very similar to the dogs that we keep as pets, don’t they? 

Like someone took a dog and made many copies of him or her. This is because dogs, jackals, foxes and even wolves all belong to the same family called Canidae.

All black-backed jackals are known to have a black patch on their backs called a saddle and a beautiful reddish-brown color to them, although some can be a little lighter. So how do we tell them apart from each other? 

We use a method called pattern recognition, which is almost like a game of spot the difference. All individuals are very unique, because of a scar, a unique colour pattern or a big obvious notch somewhere on their body. But sometimes you have to look very closely to be able to see a difference.  This can be done by using very high quality photographs and careful matching them.

Even though jackals may look like a friendly dog, it is important to remember that they are wild animals and could bite if approached too closely or scared.  Like all wild animals – if you are lucky enough to see a jackal in its natural habitat, watch from a distance and do not disturb it. And if you see more than one – why not do your own spot the difference and see if you can tell them apart!

Written by Ida-Wenona Hendricks

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