Jackals are the wild cousins of man’s best friend. Watching them in their habitat will give you an idea about how skillful they are. My first interesting interaction with one of these wild canids was when I visited Sultanpur National Park on a cold morning in January 2017. I never expected to see them there, but while exploring the terrain, I noticed a sudden movement near the grass. A pair of jackals was moving quickly towards the water body. It took me some time to identify them and a bit more to pull out my camera to take a photograph. One of them stopped for a while and turned back to look at me. It gave me a window of a few seconds to take a picture and I did just that! I was so surprised to see them at that time that I even forgot to zoom and take a better picture. I always assumed they live in wild areas but when I saw them again, a year after my first sighting in Sultanpur, I was surprised. I spotted a pack near Delhi, in a small pocket of vegetation surrounded by roads bustling with traffic. Three jackals were crossing the road looking on either side. It was as if they were well aware of the perils of crossing a path made by humans. They are probably trying to adapt to these kinds of changes.
My next encounter with a jackal was not a fortunate one. The danger that the earlier pack was trying to avoid did not spare this unlucky animal. In March 2019, I came across a roadkill near the busy area of Dhaula Kuan, a busy traffic intersection in Delhi. I first thought it was a stray dog, but realized it was jackal upon taking a closer look. It is tragic to see such a beautiful species succumbing to human carelessness.
Most people living in cities tend to be unaware of the wildlife around them. Jackals are still found in isolated, small pockets of wilderness which lack safe corridors. They continue to adapt to the hustle and bustle of human-made changes to their environment, and sometimes compete with their own feral cousins for subsistence and survival. There is immense need for creating awareness and empathy towards the species and their habitats. Jackals are presented as clever and sometimes shrewd characters in many children’s stories and in folklore. This adulation needs to translate to real life so as to prevent these magnificent wild canids from vanishing from their abodes.