Geedar - Jackal (Canis aureus)
Classification: Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Carnivora, Family: Canidae
Geographic Range: Occurs in Haryana, rest of South Asia, North and East Africa, Eastern Europe.
Characteristics: Mass: 8 to 12 kg Length: 70-85 cm Height: 40 cm approx
Longevity: Jackals live seven to nine years in the wild and up to fifteen in captivity.
In Haryana, they are found in fields and forest patches near villages. There is a largish population of Jackals in the Saraswati Plantation.
Reproduction: Jackals live in monogamous mated pairs. Births take place around the year. They have been observed to produce pups for at least eight years. The gestation period is 63 days. Young are born in a den within the parents' territory. Litters can contain one to nine pups, but two to four is the usual number. Weight at birth is 220 gm. Pups' eyes open after about ten days. The pups are nursed for about eight weeks, and then weaned. The young are fed by regurgitation and begin to take some solid food at about three months. Both parents provide food and protection. Sexual maturity comes at eleven months.
Food Habits: These Jackals consume about 55% animal food and 45% plant food. They are omnivorous foragers with a very varied diet, which consists of rodents, hares, ground birds and their eggs, reptiles, frogs, fish, insects and fruit. They take carrion on occasion. The basic social unit of the jackal is a mated pair or a pair and its young. Jackal pairs forage and rest together. All of their behavior is highly synchronized. Pairs are three times more likely to be successful than individuals in hunting. Members of the same family also cooperate in sharing larger food items and transport food in their stomachs for later regurgitation to pups or to a lactating mother. Hunting families hold territories of about 2 sq km throughout the year, portions of which are marked with urine, either by male or the female jackal, to ward off intruders.
Though the Geedar is known as a cowardly animal in Haryana folklore, it is a capable hunter, but it normally does not attack larger animals. Jackal also take part in the kills of larger animals, such as those of the tigers and leopards. They howl when a larger animal makes a kill, which usually lures other jackals to the scene. Should other animals arrive at the scene, the jackals bury their pieces of meat. Using their forepaws, they dig a trench, lay the bits of quarry into it, and then close the trench using the ridge of the nose.
Family: Both male and female members of a jackal pair have important roles in maintaining their territory and in raising the young. When one parent dies, it is unlikely that the rest of the family will survive. However, in most jackal families, there are one or two adult members called "helpers." Helpers are jackals who stay with the parents for a year after reaching sexual maturity, without breeding, to help take care of the next litter. These helper associations are probably responsible for reports of large packs hunting together. Within the family, helpers are subordinate to parents.
Helpers strengthen the family in several ways. The presence of a single adult at the den provides considerable protection: adults both "rumble growl" and "predator bark" to warn the pups to take refuge, and a single adult can successfully drive off large predators. Helpers also bring food to a lactating mother and improve the provisioning of the pups indirectly by allowing the parents to spend more time foraging alone or hunting as a pair. Families with helpers may be able to defend and exploit a carcass more successfully than an individual would be able to. The female jackal initiates all den changes. Though the males are predominantly monogamous, females reserve their aggression for female intruders, preventing the sharing of the male and his paternal investment.
Behavior: Jackals are strictly nocturnal in areas inhabited by humans, but may be partly diurnal elsewhere. They dig caverns for shelter, or use crevices in rocks, or caverns that were dug by other animals. Jackals prefer dry open country, arid short grasslands and steppe landscapes. Jackals live in pairs and are friendly to one another, scratching their partners all over their bodies. However, if strange jackals meet each other, most of the behavior expresses subordination, superiority, or eagerness to attack.
They behave in a manner similar to domesticated dogs and wolves. Males raise a hind leg while urinating, and females squat at the site they wish to spray. Males and females alike mark their territory by spraying, primarily during the mating season. Each jackal species communicates through its own repertoire of calls. Jackals use a wide inventory of howls to locate one another. A pair shows that there is a bond between them by howling together.