NAIROBI PARK DIARY

The Athi jackals

They don't always live off scraps from lion kills

In Summary

• Derided as scavengers, pair show they can be successful hunters, too

Jackal with baby impala kill
Jackal with baby impala kill
Image: GARETH JONES

Early one morning, I decided to drive down to the Athi basin, and took one of the back tracks 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 jackal 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, and so on. In this case, they were the successful hunters.

In the Athi basin, we have previously seen a pack of no less than seven black-backed jackals, enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. It appears that the Athi basin jackals are growing in number in recent years. It is also special if they have small puppies, as like most puppies, they are “fluffy and cute” and they are very playful.

Black-backed jackals are 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.

There is always something interesting or fascinating to see when looking at the wonderful creations of God, so why not spend some restful time in the Nairobi Park?

For more information you can link to the following website www.kws.go.ke