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The Golden Jackal

scientific name; canis aureus

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), also called the Asiatic, Oriental or Common Jackal, is an extant species of jackal native to north and east Africa, southeastern Europe and South Asia to Burma. It is the largest of the jackals, and the only species to occur outside Africa. Although often grouped with the other jackals (the Black-backed Jackal, and the Side-striped Jackal), genetic research indicates that the Golden Jackal is not closely related to them, but is within a "wolf" group which also includes the Gray Wolf (and the Domestic Dog) and the Coyote.

How to identify a Golden Jackal

The Golden Jackal's short, coarse fur is usually yellow to pale gold and brown-tipped, though the color can vary with season and region. On the Serengeti Plain in Northern Tanzania for example, the Golden Jackal's fur is brown-grizzled yellow in the wet season (December-January), changing to pale gold in the dry season (September-October) Jackals living in mountainous regions may have a greyer shade of fur.

The Jackal is much like a small wolf. It has long hair with a long and fluffy tail. It stands as tall as a moderately tall dog and has a bone structure common to the Canis family. It has long pointed ears and a medium sized pointed snout The body length of a Jackal is 70 to 80 cm. and its tail is about 25 cm.

When standing, it is about 40 cm. high. The color of the Jackals fur is yellow to pale gold. The fur on a jackal is smooth. The claws of a Jackal are about a inch long. It weighs about 8 to 10 kg. Scent glands are present on the face and the anus and genital regions. Females have 4-8 mammae.

In all their ranges, the Golden Jackal displays a great deal of diversity in appearance. Jackals living in north Africa tend to be larger and have longer carnassials than those living in the Middle East.Moroccan Golden Jackals are paler and have more pointed snouts than Egyptian Golden Jackals.

Courtship and reproduction

The Golden Jackal is a strictly monogamous species. In most jackal families, there are one or two adult members who act as "helpers". Helpers are jackals who have reached sexual maturity, yet remain with their parents without breeding, in order to help take care of the next litter.

The time of births vary according to region. In East Africa, births occur mainly in January-February. The Golden Jackals of the Serengeti court at the end of the dry season and produce pups during the rainy season.

Young are born in a den within the parents' marked territory after a 63 day gestation period. Litters usually contain 2–4 pups which are weaned after 50 to 90 days. Cubs at birth weigh 200–250 grams, and open their eyes after about ten days.

The young are milked, then fed by regurgitation when they begin to take solid food at about three months. Sexual maturity comes at eleven months. Jackals survive in the wild for at the most 15 years.

Diet and hunting

The Golden Jackal is an opportunistic feeder with a diet which consists of 54% animal food and 46% plant food. It is a very capable hunter of small to medium sized prey such as rabbits, rodents, birds, insects, fish and monkeys. The Golden Jackal uses its highly acute hearing to identify small prey hiding in vegetation. It has been observed to hunt ungulates 4–5 times its body weight, though it will more commonly target young specimens. Although it is common for jackals to hunt alone, they do occasionally do so in small groups, usually consisting of 2-5 individuals. Working in a pack greatly increases the chances of making a successful kill.

The Golden Jackal will scavenge given the opportunity, and will steal from the kills of other carnivores such as lions and tigers, usually waiting for the larger predators to leave before feeding themselves. Groups of 5–18 jackals have been seen frequenting large ungulate carcasses.

Golden Jackals in Uganda

Although it appears on the national checklist of Uganda the Golden Jackal has been recorded in no national park and is presumably a vagrant.

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