Jackal on a Hunt
So often, my guests can’t wait to start their afternoon or early morning game drive to see what African gem will unexpectedly reveal itself amidst the lush trees, shrubs, and brush of the bushveld. What they very often are not aware of is what surprise may await them during the very short transfer from Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit, on their way to or from one of the Kapama Camps.
After an unforgettable stay at Karula – Kapama’s flagship lodge, close to midday my guests climbed into the game vehicle for the last time, in order to make our way to Eastgate airport for the last leg of their South African trip. I knew we had a bit of extra time so decided to take a slightly longer way around and pass one of the watering holes my guests had truly enjoyed during their stay. As we made our way along the road the blazing sun did not hesitate to remind us that summer was well on its way. I did not expect to see anything due to the heat. However, Africa always has a way of surprising you, which is what I love most about my profession.
Without much warning, suddenly from nowhere a beautiful big male impala broke through the thicket and ran out onto the road a short distance in front of our game vehicle, panting heavily, head held down and dribbling saliva in strings from his mouth and nostrils. Something must have spooked it to be so exhausted and panicked.
A moment later, the reason for his distress emerged. A Black-Backed-Jackal came into sight shortly behind the Impala. The light-footed jackal danced around the Impala, ducking, and diving to avoid its sharp horns. In a blink of an eye, it lunged forward, snatching the soft, sensitive area underneath the belly between the impala’s hind legs, right on his scrotum. The impala snorted and spun around in protest, trying to gorge the jackal with his horns and rid himself of his attacker. But the jackal kept his grip between his jaws and swung in synchronization with each and every one of the impala’s twists and turns.
We were astonished at what was playing out in front of our eyes. There seemed to be no other jackals in the vicinity that were willing to come to the aid of this single attacker. It appeared he was all on his own and would have to take the Impala down unassisted.
The impala’s bucking and swerving continued for a few minutes. He stopped his dust dance and circling to try and catch his breath. Clearly the additional 9kg+ locked onto his underbelly with sharp teeth was taking its toll. As soon as the Impala came to a stop, the jackal let go of his grip. Both creatures paused right next to each other, panting for gasps of air through the light cloud of dust they both created.
Gathering up all his available remaining strength the impala flashed his horns again towards the Jackal only to be outwitted. The jackal grabbed again at his sensitive parts and the scene replayed itself again.
Finally out of pure exhaustion the Impala lost his footing on the side of the road and toppled down the slope. Lying with his back to the water, feet facing up the incline he could not master the strength or the willpower to pick up his head. The tip of one of his horns broke the calmness off the glass-like water, sending out ripples in protest of his fate. He never did find his feet again. The jackal retreated to the nearest shady spot to catch his breath and recover his own strength after his single-handed attack.
We silently drove away from the fascinating scene we were privileged enough to witness, thankful again for natures surprises. My guests were so elated to witness such a magnificent sighting on their short transfer from the lodge back to the airport, We were completely wrapped up in awe of how a small Canis mesomelas had conquered a prey almost five times his weight.
To the Black-Backed-Jackal, I have both a newfound admiration and respect. Salute!
Story and photos by: Rentia de Kock
Often guests are not fully aware of the time, effort and dedication that goes into a guide acquiring their necessary Full trails guiding qualifications, which permits them to be able to take guests on a bush walk in the safest possible way on a Big Five Reserve like Kapama.