Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Once extremely common all over the India, jackals have become quite rare because of habitat loss, hunting and diseases transmitted by domestic and feral dogs. Despite being extremely adaptable, they have simply disappeared from many areas where they were once extremely abundant.
While on our usual birding trip, we headed towards this grassland on the outskirts of Chennai looking for migrant species. This is actually a fresh water lake and beautiful grassland side by side, with the monsoon bringing in a copious inflow from sources near the lake. The lake is one of the important wetlands around Chennai, and serves as foraging and breeding grounds for several resident and migratory birds. As we started to scan, we suddenly saw movement, and noticed a pair of Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) strolling from the grasslands towards the lake bed, which is now full of reeds.
We then immediately moved, maintaining a safe distance, yet the male was very skittish and moved away, while the female was more bold stood on the grassland and looked straight at us for sometime. Then, she went about her business of searching for any possible food. Golden Jackals or the Asiatic Jackals are easily one of the most adaptable mammals that continue to survive amidst all odds in and around the city.
In this picture, the grasslands give a perfect savannah feel, but unfortunately they face severe pressures from human activities, such as unregulated vehicular movement, agricultural encroachments, sand mining, hunting, tree plantations, and seafood farming. According to a report released by the Planning Commission (download), Government of India, grasslands and deserts are among the most neglected, least protected, and yet important ecosystems supporting rich biodiversity in India.