THREE JACKALS RELEASED

By Alma van Dorenmalen, Msc, Rescue & Rehabilitation Manager

Last month the three side-striped jackals (Canis adustus), Tic, Tac and Toe were transferred to their release enclosure.

They came to us last year from a litter that was found on a farm and rescued by the owner of Forest & Garden Services. The jackals were brought to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in order for them to receive proper care and to start their rehabilitation process.

One jackal had a tilted head, which led to coordination problems. With the right medical attention, this problem was solved quickly and little Tac was holding his head normally within two weeks.

During the rehabilitation process, the three jackals were kept together and all efforts were put into keeping these jackals as wild as possible while still providing a stimulating environment in order to provide them with the best chance of being released back into the wild.

Side-striped jackals are known to be able to adjust their diet to what can be found in their environment. Not a lot of research has been done on this species in general compared to the golden and black-backed jackal and this was the second time the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre had the chance to work with this species. Side-striped jackals are fully grown and become independent when they are between 6-12 months old. This is when they would normally disperse and start to live their own lives. Males can get between 7 and 12 kg while females often weigh a bit less.

When the three jackals arrived at the centre they were like small puppies, you could easily mistake them for cute little dogs and they actually jumped on you when entering the enclosure. Obviously, this is undesirable behaviour, so the rehabilitation team started to work on minimizing contact as much as possible.

A small dedicated team worked with the jackals every day making sure all three managed to eat enough, got exposed to different food types and received stimulating enrichment.

Tic, Tac and Toe grew into healthy jackals and with the reduction of human presence over the months and the three became very skittish and not a big fan of people in general (which is what we want to keep human conflict at bay).

After visiting the farm and analysing the area whether this would be a suitable release site for these jackals, it was decided to build a release enclosure in the middle of the farm where thicker shrubs and small trees were found in a bigger patch of natural woodland. It proved to be an excellent spot for them to get acclimatized to their new environment. The surrounding area contains different thick patches of scrubs and natural vegetation providing a wide variety of food resources for these jackals.

A 15×15 meter enclosure was built with mesh going into the ground preventing the jackals from escaping. The jackals were transported in big crates to the release site, which is just outside of Lilongwe. They were placed into their new enclosure and camera traps were hung up on different spots to monitor their activity throughout the day and night.

This soft-release technique whereby the animals get time to acclimatize to their new environment improves chances of successful releases. Every day the jackals received fresh food and water. After about two weeks, the jackals seemed to be adjusted to their environment and the enclosure was opened.

During this phase, food is still provided in their enclosure since animals might see the enclosure as a safe spot and often come back to eat. This is exactly what happened and the camera traps picked up at least two of the three jackals coming back to eat. We kept feeding them outside the enclosure but reduced the amount of food. The jackals are hereby forced to find more food themselves.

After weeks of their initial release, we are very pleased to say that the jackals are doing well and our camera traps have picked them up often, showing that they are maintaining a healthy body condition.