In the autumn of last year, I took part in a study headed by David Urry at the Archipelagos Institute of Marine and Environmental Research in Greece. David established a project to monitor the growing population of Canis aureus, the Golden Jackal on the isle of Samos in the Aegean Sea. Following a (human induced) large wildfire, a group of jackals are thought to have swum across the narrow straight separating the island from mainland Turkey.
Whilst their distribution spans across much of Northern Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, this population is of interest since it is the only such which exists on a Mediterranean island. As part of the project, the research team undertook a population survey, consisting of night time trips to vantage points across the island from which we played the territorial call of C. aureus. Recordings of the number responses and their distribution across the whole island allowed us to calculate a rough estimate of population size.
The findings of the study correlated with those reported in scientific literature which show that C. aureus has adapted its ecology to match the increasingly managed landscapes within which it lives. This was abundantly clear when conducting stomach content analysis as part of autopsies assessing population health. These read as inventory lists for agricultural production on the island: the seeds and stones of grapes and olives; the beans and tubers of vegetable crops; the quills and bones of chickens.
Even more interesting is that rather than a decline, the population is thought to be increasing. This demonstrates the resilience of certain aspects of ecosystems to the presence of man, ultimately adapting their lifestyles in order to capitalise on new opportunities presented. Jackals have integrated themselves well to human landscapes due to their plasticity. However, rapid human developments will continue to bulldoze the future of those species less able to adapt to the loss of their existing habitats.
The Jackal is now perceived as a pest due to its dependence on agricultural landscapes for food, and yet in effect it is we who have made the jackal what it is today. It would seem that man's ties with nature extend beyond its destruction.
(Image taken from: Beverly Joubert)