View Full Version : Blackbacked Jackals - the Need to Kill

Gabriela Plesea
02-25-2015, 04:02 PM
Dear Friends,

I must admit that very few activities give me as much happiness as a visit to the Kalahari -we recently returned from an exciting yet somehow frustrating trip and I would like to share some of our recent sightings with you.

I expected to see this beautiful semi-desert filled with flowers and greens, yet on arrival I noticed the river beds were dry and animals rather scarce - it was not a good sign. No large herds of springbok in sight meant no predators around, and we had to search high and low for them. We did enjoy the company of lions from time to time and even a cheetah mom with her four cubs delighted us with their presence. But there were some surprises…One particular evening a few black backed jackals showed us the darker side of the predator world…

Innocent looking and rather small in comparison with the other hunters of the Kalahari, the sight of a black backed jackal would win your heart in seconds - playful, naughty, fun loving, also kind of dog-like and extremely entertaining. But there's more you need to know about the species...

Gabriela Plesea
02-25-2015, 04:09 PM
Jackals can be also cunning and vicious, as one can see in this image. When hunting in numbers the story is rather different…This was captured only days ago at about 7 pm South of Nossob Camp, the following photographs portraying all three black backed jackals attempting to kill this springbok female's lamb. The mother amazed us with her determination to save her little one, outnumbered and overwhelmed by the relentless hunters as she was.

Gabriela Plesea
02-25-2015, 04:12 PM
It was difficult to watch and the cries of the lamb when separated from the mother were quite distressing, I somehow wanted this whole thing over quickly but soon realised it was not possible: unlike larger predators, the jackals have no power to make a quick kill, instead they have to chase, stress and bite the victim until it is exhausted and falls to the ground. At some point I noticed the mother was bleeding at the muzzle, and even though I had followed the action so close it all happened so quickly that I had not noticed the moment when one of the jackals wounded her. It all happened so fast, the lamb was brought down and bitten several times but he kept getting up and trying to run away on his thin and spider-like legs.

Gabriela Plesea
02-25-2015, 04:49 PM
This last image is still fresh in my memory and it shows one more desperate attempt from the little one to escape death.

We eventually had to leave the scene despite our desire to know the outcome of this continuous struggle, it was past seven pm and we did not dare ignore the rules of the Park - therefore my story here has no ending. Some of you might like it this way, you might wish for a tad of hope that the lamb survived. I honestly did not think he made it - if he did, some cute little jackal babies out there might have starved. Life is tough in the Kalahari, and after witnessing this event a number of thoughts inundated my mind that night as I lied awake in the darkness of the tent. And I realised I was only an observer and so privileged to witness Nature and capture that which not many have seen.

Images above were taken both with Nikon D4 as well as D3S, with a 500mm lens as well as 300mm.
F-stop 5 and also 5.6
ISO between 1000 and 3200, as required by situation and trying to obtain a reasonable shutter speed to capture action.
Shutter speed 1/1250 and 1/1600 respectively

Those images are certainly not my best in terms of IQ but thought they were worth sharing because of the unusual nature of the sighting and also the environment in which it all took place. The movements from the subjects were erratic and I struggled to decide quickly whom to focus on, I often chose the springbok mother for this purpose because she was a larger target and hoped her colouring would help the camera to focus better. A rather busy environment and BG, unfortunately also a few tall bushes in front of my window which prevented me from capturing some interesting moments close-by. At times I pressed the shutter while my partner Andre was busy moving the vehicle to follow the action, afraid not to miss something. Probably the most challenging conditions ever since I started my photography and I cannot think of things I could have done better: no time to add a converter on to get closer, no idea where the subjects were going to be the next moment, light was golden but fading fast, and yes my hands were trembling with an emotion I cannot really describe even today. Not sure what it was, perhaps a combination of desperately wanting to capture all as it happened, but also a desire to stop it it all from happening - for I needed time to think, to recompose, to check my camera settings...

Hope you will join me on this forum and share some of your sightings and experiences, be it avian or wildlife images or interactions between various species.

I thank you so much for viewing and for taking the time to read my impressions of this special sighting.

Warmest regards,

Rachel Hollander
02-26-2015, 09:53 AM
Hi Gabriela - What a great sighting and story. You've told the story very well both through your words and images. Interesting to see the jackals working together in a somewhat coordinated attack. I usually think of them as scavengers trying to steal scraps at a kill.

TFS this sighting with us,

Gabriela Plesea
02-26-2015, 11:47 AM
Thank you Rachel,

It was indeed fascinating to watch, this was the first time I saw jackals hunting... normally they hang around a lion, cheetah or leopard kill and - like you said - steal scraps. What I noticed over the years is they are extremely possessive over their water holes, and able to bite a larger predator's tail if he hangs around for too long:) Hope to share more images with you from this trip, many thanks for viewing and kind comments, appreciate it.

Warmest regards,

Steve Kaluski
02-26-2015, 05:46 PM
Greetings from snowy British Columbia, great storytelling Gabriella, your skill set is well suited here. Nice sequence of events and this gives a lovely insight/perspective, but also a learning aspect too. Look forward to reading and seeing more.
Steve :cheers:

Gabriela Plesea
02-28-2015, 03:46 PM
Thank you so much Steve - much more in my folders awaiting processing:) Forgot to mention that the lighting conditions were changing fast (it all happened around 7 pm) and therefore the images in this sequence look rather different in terms of colour.

I know it may be time consuming to edit three or more images to post in this forum, but I sincerely hope this would not discourage members to contribute. We encourage everyone to display unusual sightings, interactions between various species, anything they find interesting - right now I am busy preparing a sequence of images of a springbok running, will share as soon as they are completed:)

Hope you have a wonderful week-end,

Warmest regards,

Diane Miller
03-02-2015, 09:25 AM
What a moving story, both the words and pictures! I think we'll see some very interesting contributions here! Thanks for getting it started.

Steve Kaluski
03-02-2015, 06:58 PM
We encourage everyone to display unusual sightings, interactions between various species, anything they find interesting

Hi Gabriela, I hope it may also provoke people to think & shoot in a different way which is good and to try out new ways of thinking to highlight the 'Story telling'. This is much more that just that one image, it all about a series, sequence of events, actions...

Andreas Liedmann
03-04-2015, 10:01 AM
Hi Gabriela thanks for the nice story and images a well done thing you started off in "your" forum :wave:.
As always i love your wording ...... over the top for my taste , no one can do it better on BPN , well at least IHMO !!
The images work nice in all context .

Vey well done , cheers Andreas

Gabriela Plesea
03-04-2015, 04:32 PM
Well, your story telling took my breath away tonight, Andreas! Cannot wait to see more:)

Thank you so much for taking the time to view and read, much appreciated!

Lekker slaap (sleep well)

Jackie Schuknecht
03-08-2015, 09:12 AM
Well captured, hard to view. Well done Gabriela.

Morkel Erasmus
03-09-2015, 02:51 PM
A great sequence and story, Gabriela. I saw a couple of photo sequences and videos in the past that showed how jackals would hound the springbok to utter exhaustion and then start eating them alive.
One such a sequence showed the jackal (only one) having the springbok by the ear and wrestling it into submission for hours.

Gabriela Plesea
03-10-2015, 03:37 PM
Thank you Morkel!

Well, if them jackals can bite a badger, they can do just about anything, right? Wonder what we'll see next time, the KTP is always full of surprises...

I think this forum gives us an opportunity to share those amazing sightings...I must look for something from the archives tomorrow...so looking forward to more from you:)

Good night, Morkel:wave:

Ákos Lumnitzer
06-03-2015, 05:39 AM
Really great series Gabriela!
Well told story.

Gabriela Plesea
06-05-2015, 02:00 PM
Hello Akos!

I really appreciate the time you took to view and comment in this Forum, many many thanks Mate:cheers:

Kind regards, wishing you a lovely week-end,