I have never been up close and personal with an African jackal before. I had seen them from a distant on our safari trips to Africa, but they were always very skittish, constantly on the alert, easily startled and wary of humans. They tend to run off if the slightest thing spooks them.

African jackal

So to see one up close was a great experience, and it was quite an unexpected one too.

African jackal

We were volunteering at Kevin Richardson’s (aka ‘Lion Whisperer’) lion sanctuary near Johannesburg, South Africa. As part of the arrangement, as the sanctuary was situated in a Big Five game park, Welgedacht, our accommodation was within a compound protected by an electric fence, to keep the wildlife out, especially marauding elephants and wild lions.

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African jackal

One day whilst feeding a pair of entertaining water mongoose who had a man made play pen within our compound, I saw a jackal outside the fence. To my absolute amazement, he trotted along the fence line, then snuck in between two electric wires to come inside our perimeter. Wow! Whilst still a little skittish as if he was aware I was watching, he disappeared around the back of a house where the manager lived. I quietly walked around the side of the house and gingerly peered around the corner, switching on my camera to hopefully get a close up zoom shot of him.

Well, low and behold, he was just standing there but seemed to be eating something near the back steps of the house. Then I saw a pair of human legs sticking out from the back steps and recognised the manager’s wife. And yes, her little dog was sitting beside her too.

African jackal

Crickey. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was was being hand fed sharing some titbits with the dog. I later learned it was African beef jerky. Of course, what else would it have been? Err derr!

Once all the treats had gone off he went, back through the fence into the sunset as quietly as he had come.

African jackal

How cool was that! I spoke with the manager after as I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. That’s when the story came out. The jackal and the little dog had been partially raised together when the jackal had been rescued from the wild, along with another sibling as little helpless pups.

African jackal

The other jackal had long since moved on, but this guy often came back during the day to play with the dog, although at times, his play got rough and he would inflict bites on it. In fact everyone in the know what actively trying to dissuade the jackal from returning to the compound because of that, But hey, when every now you are offered prime jerky? Well, what would you do?!!!

African jackal

[Photos and videos by Irene Isaacson]

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