Burgers’ Zoo is now home to five Golden Jackal pups!
Until recently, they have been safely tucked away with mum in their underground den, which makes it difficult for keepers to pinpoint their exact birthdate. They are now spending more time above ground and keepers estimate them to be about three-months-old.
The little Jackals are becoming quite popular with visitors to Burgers’ Zoo, and staff describes one of the pups as being especially curious and “cheeky”.
The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) is a canid native to southeastern and central Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East and South Asia.
A social species, its basic social unit consists of a breeding pair and any offspring it might have. The Golden Jackal is omnivorous and an opportunistic forager; its diet varies according to season and habitat.
Although similar to a small Grey Wolf, the Golden Jackal is distinguished by a more slender build, a narrower, more pointed muzzle, a shorter tail, and a lighter tread. Its winter fur is also more reddish in color.
Golden jackals are monogamous. The number of pups in a single litter varies geographically. Pups are born with shut eyelids and soft fur, which ranges in color from light grey to dark brown. At the age of one month, their fur is shed and replaced with a new reddish colored pelt with black speckles. Their eyes typically open after 8–11 days, with the ears standing erect after 10–13 days. The length of the nursing period varies with region. The pups begin to eat solid food at the age of 15–20 days. Once the lactation period concludes, the female drives off the pups.
Golden Jackals feature prominently in Middle-Eastern and Asian folklore and literature, where they are often described as tricksters (very much like the fox and coyote of European and North American tales).
The Golden Jackal is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, due to its widespread range in areas with optimum food and shelter. According to the IUCN: “The Golden Jackal is a widespread species. It is fairly common throughout its range with high densities observed in areas with abundant food and cover. A minimum population estimate of over 80,000 is estimated for the Indian sub-continent. Population estimates for Africa are not available. Due to their tolerance of dry habitats and their omnivorous diet, the golden jackal can live in a wide variety of habitats. They are opportunistic and will venture into human habitation at night to feed on garbage.”