The Playful Pups!!!- Article by Gareth Jones
The Playful Pups Of Nairobi National Park
Early one cool cloudy morning, we entered the East gate and drove towards the southern end of the park. As we approached the No 10 murram heaps, we found 2 black-backed jackal pups sitting completely alone with their parents nowhere near them. However, the pups seemed to be perfectly happy and unstressed, and they began to play around our vehicle. One of them found what looked like the remains of an ostrich feather and picked it up, then continuing to victoriously parade around the immediate area with this “prize”, as the other equally playful jackal pup attempted to win the “prize” out of the other pup’s mouth unsuccessfully. We really enjoyed watching them for some time, eventually as we left, they gradually moved off further from the road.
On another early morning, we also entered the East gate and drove towards the middle of the park. Soon I saw a movement next to the road near No 6 junction, it was a black-backed jackal. Then I noticed something much smaller moving in the long grass on the opposite side of the road. We were excited to find that the smaller creatures were in fact cute little jackal pups. Wow what a sighting! At first they were seemly scared of the vehicle and quickly disappeared into their burrow. We decided to wait and see if they would come out again. After sitting quietly for about 15 minutes we were rewarded as they slowly emerged. First a single head appeared, then another, and another as they peered in our direction, as if wondering what the strange shiny silver object was. We continued to sit quietly and soon 6 pups emerged and began to act more naturally as they played games around the burrow, like “catch me if you can” and “bite the stick”. Two of the pups were quite quizzy and came quite close to our vehicle. It was really a privilege to be able to watch them for a while, as the adult black black jackals watched us with suspicion from the nearby bushes.
The black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) is a canid native to two areas of Africa, separated by roughly 900km. One region includes the southernmost tip of the continent, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe in which the sub-species Canis mesomelas mesomelas occurs. The other area is along the eastern coastline, including Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia in which the sub-species Canis mesomelas schmidti occurs predominantly in wild areas away from Towns and Cities. The black-backed jackal is a fox-like canid with a slender body, long legs, and large ears. It is similar to the closely related side-striped jackal and more distantly related to the golden jackal, though its skull and dentition are more robust and the incisors much sharper. It weighs 6–13 kg, stands up to 48 cm at the shoulder.
The mating season takes place from late May to August, with a gestation period of 60 days. Pups are born from July to October. Summer births are thought to be timed to coincide with population peaks of rodent species, while winter births are timed for ungulate calving seasons. Litters consist of one to 9 pups, which are born blind. For the first three weeks of their lives, the pups are kept under constant surveillance by their dam, while the sire and elder offspring provide food. The pups open their eyes after 8–10 days and emerge from the den at the age of 3 weeks. They are weaned at 8–9 weeks, and can hunt by themselves at the age of 6 months. Sexual maturity is attained at 11 months, though few black-backed jackals reproduce in their first year. Black-backed jackal pups become increasingly quarrelsome as they age, and establish more rigid dominance hierarchies. Dominant pups appropriate food, and become independent at an earlier age. The grown pups may disperse at one year of age, though some remain in their den territories to assist their parents in raising the next generation of pups. The average lifespan in the wild is 7 years, though captive specimens can live twice as long.
There is always something interesting or fascinating to see when looking at the wonderful creations of God, so why spend some restful time in the Nairobi Park? You never know what you might see and experience, perhaps some playful pups?