Howling into the night
A chance encounter with a cunning creature makes the author ponder about the rapidly declining population of the Golden jackal in rural India.
Date – 9th of September, 2015. We visited the famed railway yard of our village Halisahar ( District – North 24 Parganas, State-West Bengal) for some wildlife photography and birding. Suddenly, surrounded by the kashful (Saccharum spontaneum) or the wild Kans grass, I spotted the Indian Jackal. It looked similar to a small Alsatian dog. I had seen a fox once near our house in my childhood, but the one I saw this day was of a much bigger size as compared to the one of my childhood. Even though our initial purpose of the visit was to take pictures of birds, all was forgotten with the glimpse of the fox. We waited there for a long time and our wait was rewarded with the sighting of four Indian Jackals at a time.
The scientific name of the Indian jackal is Canis aureus indicus, and is of a similar size to an Alsatian dog. With a black and brown body, and a lighter neck, the Indian jackal has bright alert eyes and shiny black nose. The tail is naturally healthy and is usually 100 cm in length. Their height is around 35 – 45cm and weight is 8 to 11 kg. They are extremely clever animals and they roam about in search of prey from the pre-dawn hours till the dawn lightens the sky. In the dark of the night, they steal ducks, chickens, birds and other animals from villager’s homes for food. They also hunt for fish or crabs from ponds or wetlands. If you see the methods of catching crab, you have to appreciate it. They put down their tail end in a crab-hole. Once the crab attaches itself to the tail, the fox simply lifts up its tail, along with the crab.
They love to live in bushes and forests. They make their nests by digging in the ground. Their call of “Hukka-Hua” can still be heard in distant villages, even though their numbers are declining with the rise in modern technology in rural India. A common sight or sound in our childhood, the jackal’s cry has become rare in human habitation with time. Loss of habitat has a lot to account for, with respect to the gradual decline of the population of the Indian jackal. The day is not far when their very existence will be in danger. If we do not meditate on this in the meantime, they might be lost forever from us.
The Indian jackal can also be found in the countries of Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Read also: To nest or not to nest
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