#PhotoEssay : A Jackal’s Journey

I have been exploring the ravines around the Sabarmati River for sometime now. I eagerly look forward to each evening as the clock strikes six, and the setting sun bring some relief from the unrelenting forty degree plus heat of the Gujarat summer sun. I meander into the sandy ravines, ravaged my sand lorries and tractors and am amazed at how nature clings on despite the death by a thousand human cuts. And survive does she. In fact she thrives. I have known the presence of Nilgais and wild boar in this region. There are plenty of birds, with an overall species count of about 120 or so. This is extremely biodiverse for a human interfered, invasive species rich, dry and stony jungle. Nevertheless, I did not expect the presence of any other large carnivore, with the exception of semi-ferral dogs hunting and chasing nilgai fawn.

It was on one of these hot days in April that I decided to walk onto the edge of a ravine and take a meditation break on one of the ledges of a cliff, about 150 feet high. The valley below dropped precipitously into an abyss of thorn scrub and spiny cacti. I sat on the edge and an exhilaration of a sense of freedom surrounded me. This naturally pushed me inwards and I automatically closed my eyes. But just as I was about to settle down, my arrival created a disturbance in the jungle. I looked below to see a dog like creature running for cover in the valley below. It couldn’t be a dog surely. One dogs don’t run away from humans in that fashion. Second, the tail was too bushy for a dog. The back was streaked grey. No. This was no dog. It had to be a jackal or a wolf. Judging by the colors it was a jackal!

I was filled with that pleasant warmth of excitement as I watched it run into the bush for cover. But hardly ten minutes later, another of its family came into the open. This time it hadn’t seen me at all and it gave me the luxury of time to observe it at great leisure. It dallied for a while and then followed its earlier family member into the bush. I was taken by what I had seen. This is the first time I had seen a jackal while on foot. It is often rarer to spot than tigers or elephants.

I wondered if the jackals were visiting or they were breeding. Was there a den? I decided to scout around and saw a few dens in the vicinity of where I had spotted the jackals. But I couldn’t be sure if it was a jackal’s den. I decided to come back tomorrow and see if they would still be around. This time i decided to come back with my camera.

On day two, I perched myself on that very same rock and voila! to my surprise they were back. This time they knew I was around and were very cautious in showing themselves. But one of them decided to come out into the open and give me a good scan. It paid off, for me at least. I was able to quickly snap a picture that I share here. It was looking directly at me while i clicked this picture. And then as quickly as it came, it was gone.

I go back each evening to see my jackal friends and as always, they are there. The joy that it fills me up with is indescribable. The jackals play in the warm forest and I revel in the beauty they have to offer.

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