The Jackal Kill

Sher Bagh guests were observing kingfishers on their first forays of the day opposite the palace window at Rajbagh (Zone 3) when the first alarm call of a cheetal deer pierced the morning calm and was rapidly followed by the bronchial bellow, twice repeated, of a sambar from a nearby gorge.

An animated shifting of gears and a few minutes later we were moving towards the heights of Mandoop before we arrived at a gathering of sambar and cheetal deer, congregating above a dry nallah to our right. On closer observation the bloodied face of a jackal rose above the stony terrain of the nallah. We moved forward a metre to find a second jackal in the process of strangling a cheetal fawn, which as we observed it was still kicking the last breath of life against the ground, its neck firmly enclosed in the grip of the jackal’s jaws.

Jackals eating
Jackals eating
Jackals eating
Jackals eating

Surrounded as they were by a herd of curious sambar and aggrieved cheetal, the jackals were in a nervous state and once dropped the fawn to scurry for cover as a female sambar charged directly at them.

Sambar charges the Jackal
Sambar charges the jackal

The cheetal on the other side of the nallah kept their distance and remained more tentative. In a demonstration of strong will and not to be deprived of their bag, the jackals soon returned to the dying fawn, approximately 4 months old, that barely held on to its life. This second attack resonated a greater sense of urgency, in the face of a hostile group of sambar and the pair began to bite off morsels from the struggling fawn.

The cheetal continued to call intermittently, occasionally scenting the air and stomping their feet in an act of distress. The sambar lingered around. The jackals began to snarl and quarrel with hisses over the carcass; both devouring chunks of flesh quickly and in furious competition with each other. Within minutes they had consumed a third of the fawn and quickly disappeared with snatches of meat into the gorge, away from view of the deer and our vehicle. We had just witnessed one of those rare occurences of animal behaviour which are difficult to document.
The Indian jackal (Canis aureus indicus) is generally a scavenger that is seldom seen making live kills. Sightings of jackals killing wild game such as deer are rarer still. This doughty canid is a robust survivor that thrives throughout the Indian countryside and is easier to spot on drives along rural India than inside Protected Areas and sancturies where it must compete for food with bigger predators, including the hyena.
Deers come towards jackal
Deer come towards jackal
Deer aproaches kill
Deer aproaches kill
Sambar charges jackal
Sambar charges jackal

Written by Yusuf Ansari
Photography by Adam Bannister

5 thoughts on “The Jackal Kill

    1. Thank you Imran,
      The sighting was truly special for the guests and despite many years in many wildernesses, for me as well. The first time I had witnessed jackals making a kill. The reaction of the sambar deer, to the sight and scent of the dying cheetal was an extraordinary display of wildlife behaviour. We will be updating news from Ranthambhore regularly now…
      Thanks again,

      Yusuf Ansari

    1. Thank you Mr. Raman, ‘awesome and unbelievable’ accurately convey the action we witnessed that morning…

      Yusuf Ansari

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