The Day of the Jackal

I heard a report coming in on the radio about a lion that had killed a bush pig, and I was fascinated by the behaviour of animals in the wild. The story had a surprising twist when we arrived at the scene.


We rushed to the crime scene, looking forward to watching the ferocious feline demolishing its prey. When we arrived at the location, we found the bushpig completely intact, not even opened, and no lion in sight. Predators kill other predators to eliminate competition; these victims are usually not consumed for food. Still, there was no viable reason that a cache of meat such as this would be left alone.

I cannot explain why the lion chose to leave his prize, but nothing gets wasted in the bush. Throughout the afternoon, the vultures arrived and began to consume the carcass, comically scrapping and flapping around as they argued over feeding rights. 

Lioness at Pridelands – Photograph © Karolina Krol


We returned to the site at the end of our night drive, hoping that the smell of decomposing flesh had wafted its way to the sensitive nostrils of the resident hyena clan. It seemed, however, that the hyenas had also turned up their noses at the meal, but not so a small group of side-striped jackals!

This diminutive predator is often overlooked in the food chain but is hugely important in cleaning the bush. It is not as gregarious as the more common black-backed jackal; thus, their presence was a welcome sight. The temptation of a free meal overrode their usual, and we were rewarded with a fantastic sighting as they wrestled with their porky prize!

Side-striped jackals are omnivores and can get their water requirements from eating fruits, enabling them to succeed in more harsh terrains. They are also efficient hunters and regularly take small mammals, birds and even arthropods, but an unattended carcass was a bonanza for them to enjoy.

Jackal is standing by the bushpig killed earlier in the day by a lion. – Photograph © Ben Coley

We stayed in the sighting long after dark, enjoying their antics as individuals argued over the choice cuts. It prompted a long discussion over their feeding habits, role in the ecosystem and why the lion chose to leave its kill.


The true beauty of working in the bush is that nothing is ‘set in stone’. For a lion to pass up an opportunity to feed is unusual, but its decision benefited a host of less powerful members of the bushveld community. 

Variety is the spice of life, and we bush folk live our lives wondering what awaits us around the next corner; this excitement, the unknown quantity, makes life in the bush so rewarding!

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