Tag Archives: lion kill

Black-backed jackals

 A small mammal that we come across often on our travels is the Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas).  This fox-like animal is fairly common in most habitats, but especially in the game reserves in southern Africa where prey is plentiful.  We have even seen one walking the streets of Windhoek late at night.  Although they look rather like a harmless variety of dog, looks can be deceiving because Black-backed jackals are quite aggressive especially in their quest for food.  They are a nuisance to farmers as they prey on livestock and spread rabies.

Black-backed jackal

During a visit to the Etosha National Park this last weekend, we were visited by a jackal whilst having a barbeque outside our chalet.  Visitors to the park are urged not to feed these scavengers as it encourages their presence in the camp, but I suspect that foreigners who don’t see them too often must get quite a thrill being so close to a wild animal out in the open.  We had to chase this fellow away before he stole our meat.  On a previous visit to the same park we actually saw a jackal steal meat off a barbeque.

Near our barbeque

On a trip to the Central Kalahari in Botswana we came across a lion kill (see our post The Lions of Passarge Valley) and there were no less than six jackals waiting in the wings for a go at the carcass.  The lioness in charge of guarding the carcass was not interested in sharing her spoils with them and dragged it under a bush where she kept a beady eye on the hungry Black-backed jackals.  This lucky fellow managed to scrounge a tasty morsel for himself.

Jackal thief!!

It is also exciting to see them on the bleak desert landscape of the Skeleton Coast.  Even though the area looks barren and arid, the jackals have no reason to starve with the Cape Cross seal colony spread out before them like a buffet in the desert.  They also eat fish and mussels washed up onto the beach.

Jackal - Skeleton Coast

Black-backed jackals have reddish-brown bodies with a black ‘saddle’ over their backs.  They like to move at a fast pace, almost a trot.  They usually hunt alone, but live in pairs and are territorial.  Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, insects and carrion.  Mating takes place from May onwards, with young being born between July and October.  Litters consist of between one and six pups that are born after a gestation period of about two months.

A nice place for a rest

It’s exciting to lie in your tent at night and listen to the eerie sound of Black-backed jackals calling to each other.

 

 

 

The Gemsbok – courageous, elegant and proud

Namibian’s think so highly of the gemsbok, or Oryx gazella that their national coat of arms depicts two of these magnificent animals on either side of a shield covered with the national flag – representing courage, elegance and pride.  If you see these antelope in their desert surroundings, you will understand why they hold such a prominent place in the hearts of all Namibians.

Gemsbok in typical habitat

We come across them often in our travels in Namibia and Botswana and they never fail to give us a thrill when we see them.  Their coats vary in colour from light grey to light brown, with patches of white, highlighted by dramatic black lines on their backs, legs and faces. These striking markings are offset by long straight horns that are sported by both males and females – the female’s horns being slightly thinner and longer.

Pair of gemsbok

Gemsbok can survive in harsh semi-desert conditions and dry savannah areas as they have adapted to tolerate heat better than other antelopes.  Able to withstand temperatures in excess of 45 degrees C they use rapid breathing to cool the blood that passes through their noses.  This cooler blood is transported to their brains and their body temperature is brought down a few degrees.

Enjoying a dip with Springbok

They are able to survive for long periods without water. Like most antelopes, they are mainly grazers, but they also eat tsamma melons, bulbs and tubers, which add moisture and fibre to their diet.  During the day gemsbok mostly try and find a shady tree to stand under, as they prefer feeding early in the morning, evening and sometimes during the night, when temperatures are cooler.

Gemsbok at Etosha

Lions,  hyenas and dogs are their main predators, apart from humans, who hunt them for trophies or meat.  We came across a lion kill in the Central Kalahari last year, where a pride of lions had brought down a gemsbok.

Lion kill in the Kalahari

The lions guarded their kill very jealously because a large number of black-backed jackals  were keen to get any pickings that they could.

Lion kill in the Kalahari

Gemsbok give birth to a single calf, arriving at any time during the year, after a nine month gestation period.  The calf is usually hidden for the first few weeks of its life before it joins the rest of the herd.  The baby’s horns grow very quickly, giving rise to the myth that gemsbok are born with horns, which obviously isn’t true.  As can be seen from the photo below, the baby is brown with very few markings.

Mother & Baby - Sossusvlei

Wherever we see them – in the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the savannah grasslands of Botswana or the arid rocky Etosha game reserve, they remain one of our absolute favourite animals and we always admire their grace and beauty.