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A diverse autumn diet without dominant prey for opportunistic black-backed jackals Canis mesomelas

Author(s): Emmanuel Do Linh San | Nangamso B. Malongwe | Bradley Fike | Michael John Somers | Michele Walters

Journal: Wildlife Biology in Practice
ISSN 1646-1509

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 96;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Diet | Food generalism | Food opportunism | Ungulates | Scat analysis | Thicket Biome | Xeric area

We present preliminary data on the dietary habits of black-backed jackals Canis mesomelas in a xeric conservation area (Great Fish River Reserve, South Africa) where large predators are absent and therefore the availability of carcasses reduced. Hence, the question arose whether jackals substantially feed on antelopes through direct predation and/or scavenging of carcasses of animals that died from other natural causes. We therefore collected scats (n = 109) during autumn when, in addition to adults, both newborn and older calves or lambs were available to jackals. The diet of jackals from two areas of the reserve that differ in habitat structure and composition revealed a large and comparable food spectrum. The contribution of antelopes to jackal diet – expressed as relative volume of remains in the scats – reached 20.7%, followed by “other mammals” (Suidae, Tubulidentata, Primates; 19.8%), arthropods (17.6%), rock hyraxes Procavia capensis and springhares Pedetes capensis (12.8%) and unidentified plant material (10.5%). Fruits, carnivores, small rodents and reptiles acted as supplementary food sources (18.6% in total). Further studies covering the yearly cycle and including an assessment of prey availability and an estimation of food biomass ingested by jackals are needed to fully appreciate the importance of antelopes in jackal diet in areas devoid of large predators.
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