Jackal is one of the most seen animals of Sri Lanka due to its wide distribution. Jackal is a mammalian carnivore, whose intelligence, resourcefulness and cunning has been a part of indigenous folklore. A single species of jackal inhabits the island Sri Lanka, it is the most common jackal of Asia (Canis aureus) also known as the golden jackal in Africa. Jackal is the only wild member of the dog family (Canidae) Animals in Sri Lanka. Jackal is found in both dry and wet zones in the island.
Not unlike village dogs at the first glance, the jackal’s bushy tail and yelping howl is distinctive. However the jackal’s brindled coat of brown, black and gray shows considerable variation between individuals of even a single population.
As destroyers of maimed, weak and sick animals, jackals play an vital role within the Eco-systems, by “pruning” herbivore populations. As scavengers they are also an important part of the “clean up crew” at any carcass, whatever the animal or cause of death. Thereby they perform a vital function, preventing the incubation and spread of disease from large rotting carcasses. However, jackals are skilled hunters who hunt healthy prey successfully.
Jackal often hunts in pairs where one animal lies ambush while the other chases the prey animal towards it. Jackal pairs are known to mate for life, and are most often seen together.
The jackal has a wide distribution from Africa to Asia. In village areas jackals come into conflict with humans when they attack the young of goats and sheep and prey on poultry.
In their natural habitat, however, jackals prey on a wide variety of small mammals and birds, including field mice, hare, young axis deer, mouse deer and ground nesting birds such as jungle fowl and pea fowl. Jackals also eat variety of reptiles, insects, bird’s eggs and even fruits. They are often on the move, constantly on the look out for opportunities.
In areas with healthy leopard population such as Yala and Wilpattu, jackals profit by the large number of kills made by leopard for scavenging. However, this is done with extreme caution as leopards will not tolerate the scavenging of their kills by jackals.
Female jackals give birth to 5 – 6 pups after a gestation period of 60 – 63 days; as many as 9 pups in a single litter have been recorded. However, several pups from each litter do not survive to adulthood. Pups are brought up on their mother’s milk from birth; they are weaned and transferred to meat when they are between 8 and 10 week old.
In Sri Lanka there is a healthy population of jackal. However conflict with humans and dogs are on the increase. Jackals fall victim to snares intended for other wild animals, and are directly persecuted by farmers defending livestock. In addition, they also become the targeted victim of poisoned cattle carcasses meant for leopards.