Night of the Jackal
by Tim Baily
Lake Nasser has an impressive variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded: Wild duck, Egyptian geese, pelicans, herons, egrets and various species of hawks, kites, falcons and eagles are among the birds to be seen. In most areas there are crocodile and monitor lizards, other types of wildlife include Dorcas gazelle, Golden jackals, Desert fox, and various smaller desert mammals.
At night, whilst sitting in camp under the desert stars, one hears all sorts of sounds: frogs, crickets, the call of an owl, howling jackals, night bird calls - and the tantalising splash of big fish feeding near the camp. When it's quiet and the lights have been turned off the camp comes alive. Little Gerbils have a good scout around for bits of food and a desert fox or Golden Jackal is likely to be checking out the rubbish hole. We encourage these remarkably tame animals by feeding them.
At one of our camps, situated on a large island, a family of Golden Jackals (6 all told, Mum Dad and 4 youngsters) have been stranded, away from the mainland, by the rising waters of the lake. These lovely creatures, about the size of a small Alsatian dog, have become remarkably tame because we feed them.
No matter what time of day that the supply boat arrives, one or two of them will come trotting over the hill to welcome us. They will sit quietly for most of the day waiting for night.
Then, as soon as its dark, they seem to loose most of their fear of us and will come as close as 10' away from where we are sitting, to pick up the food we put out for them.
Despite the fact they are stranded on an island they are in remarkably good condition, they must find plenty of other food. We do not feel that by feeding them, on the odd occasion, that they will grow reliant on our handouts and as a result loose the ability to fend for themselves in the wild.
This is a unique situation. First of all, the Golden Jackal is a relatively rare, away from the shores of Lake Nasser. Secondly, it is normally a timid animal, which ranges over a huge area.
As a result are very difficult to tame, even by feeding them normally they never seem to be in one place long enough to get used to us.
We are lucky to be able to offer our anglers the experience of seeing this family of Golden Jackal so tame and close at hand. We hope the hunters who visit the lake do not find them.
Since writing this article in May 2001 three of the youngsters have been shot by hunters from Malta. Sadly we seem to have made a mistake taming these lovely animals because they got to trust humans. Now, the remaining three members of the original pack quite rightly no longer trust us and have become totally wild again. I sometimes think there are some sad people on this planet.