The Athi Basin Jackals! – Article by Gareth Jones
Athi Basin Jackals In The Nairobi National Park
Early one morning I decided to drive down to the Athi basin and took one of the backtracks to look for wildlife, suddenly a black-backed jackal was seen lying down in the road with a half-eaten baby impala kill. The jackal quickly stood up and grabbed the kill a few times to get a good grip and then trotted away. The jackal occasionally stopped to rest, and then looked back on me just in case I was a threat to steal the meal. After a while, a second jackal appeared and they both went off into the thick grass and bushes. Wow! what a sighting, it is unusual to find a jackal carrying such a large kill, almost like a trophy “prize”. It is possible that these jackals actually killed this baby impala, and were therefore not scavenging in the traditional role that most people see them doing when trying to get scraps from lion kills etc. In this case, they were successful hunters.
In the Athi basin, we have previously seen a pack of no less than 7 black-backed jackals enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. It appears that the Athi basin jackals are growing in numbers in recent years. It is also special if they have small puppies, as like most puppies they are “fluffy & cute” and they are very playful.
Black-backed jackals not often seen in the park. They are opportunistic in nature and will eat carrion or even hunt small insects, birds and mammals. Many years ago I witnessed a jackal trying to catch a small wildebeest calf that had been separated from its mother, but thankfully the calf escaped.
On another occasion, we found 2 black-backed jackals literally having a “tug-of-war” dual over a spurfowl that they had caught. Each one concerned that the other was going to eat most of the meal, so they fought each other to try and get the bird. Eventually one of them lapsed in concentration and the other jackal emerged victoriously will its “prize”.
There are actually 2 species of jackals that can be seen in the Nairobi National Park and the Athi basin is a good place to find them. As already mentioned the black-backed jackal are starting to breed up to a healthy population. However, a rarely seen side-striped jackals are larger in size and tend to keep to bushy scrubland instead of open savannah.
There is always something interesting or fascinating to see when looking at the wonderful creations of God, so why spend some restful time in Nairobi Park?