The ecology of black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) on farmlands in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Agricultural development is progressively being attributed as a cause of biodiversity loss. Despite this development, some species do successfully inhabit these transformed habitats and benefit from increased food and resource availability. Therefore it is important to understand how and why species persist in those altered landscapes to conserve remaining biodiversity. Black-backed jackals are an abundant mesopredator with an apparent success to these changing agricultural environments. An understanding of their ecology in agricultural areas can provide important ecological information on the species and elucidate possible reasons why this mesopredator is capable of adapting and surviving in agricultural lands. From 2013 to 2014, a study was conducted on the ecology of the black-backed jackal Canis mesomelas in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study examined the home range, habitat use and diet of the species. In addition species characteristics and conflict of black-backed jackal from a landowner’s perspective were determined. It was found that rodents comprised the most consumed item of prey by black-backed jackal, followed by domestic livestock. There was a significant diversity of prey species in the diet indicating the opportunistic and generalist nature of the species. The home range movements of the species were relatively large compared to previous studies on the species and juveniles generally had larger home ranges than adult males and females. Habitat selection within home ranges indicated jackals preferred bushlands in winter and spring, and croplands in summer and autumn. Landowner’s reported regular predation on livestock by the species and suggest the increasing intensity of agriculture provides a greater food source of jackals. Some farmers used mitigation strategies in an attempt to prevent livestock losses, however, 32 % of farmers confessed to having poor disposal techniques for dead animals. This study provides important ecological information on black-backed jackal as a mesopredator species. Information on the spatial movement and diet of jackals in this study highlighted the variability in ecology of the species, providing information on the species’ persistence and success in agricultural areas. Furthermore, feedback from farmers emphasised the importance of having collaboration between farmers to control jackal predation and reduce human-wildlife conflict.