A conservation assessment of Canis mesomelas
Authors and Editors
The Black-backed Jackal is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and is widespread. It is considered a generalist canid with an opportunistic lifestyle and occupies most habitats within the assessment region. Black-backed Jackals are the dominant predators of livestock in the assessment region and are thus widely persecuted in an attempt to reduce population size and associated livestock losses. However, despite centuries of population reduction efforts, Black-backed Jackals still persist on farmlands and in most conservation areas. Therefore, these population control efforts appear ineffective, but may result in temporary and localised reductions in population size. Further, lethal control in combination with other management practices may result in local extirpations. Although no accurate population estimates are available, we estimate that there are more than 10,000 individuals in the assessment region, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Black-backed Jackal population size and distribution may have increased over the last 15 years. Therefore, due to this resilience, irrespective of concerted control efforts, we infer that this species will persist, and list it as Least Concern.
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland Canis mesomelas | 1
Canis mesomelas Schreber 1775
ANIMALIA - CHORDATA - MAMMALIA - CARNIVORA -
CANIDAE - Canis - mesomelas
Synonyms: achrotes, arenarum, elgonae, mcmillani,
Common names: Black-backed Jackal, Silver-backed
Jackal (English), Rooijakkals, Swartrugjakkals (Afrikaans),
Phukubjê (Pedi), Phokobjê (Pedi, Tswana), Phokobje,
Phokojoe, Phokojwe (Sotho), Imphungushe, Jakalasi,
Mpungutje, Impungutjee (Swazi), Hungudzwa, Jajaja,
Mhungubya, Phungubya (Tsonga), Phokobyê, Phokojê,
Phokojwê, Sekgêê (Tswana), Phungubwe, Phunguhwe,
Phunguhwe i re na Mutana Mutswu (Venda), Impungutye
(Xhosa), Ikhanka, Impungushe, Inkanka (Zulu)
Taxonomic status: Species
Taxonomic note: Meester et al. (1986) assigned all
southern African material to the nominate subspecies,
Canis mesomelas mesomelas.
Canis mesomelas – Black-backed Jackal
Regional Red List status (2016) Least Concern
National Red List status (2004) Least Concern
Reasons for change No change
Global Red List status (2014) Least Concern
TOPS listing (NEMBA) (2007) None
CITES listing None
Recommended citation: Minnie L, Avenant NL, Kamler J, Butler H, Parker D, Drouilly M, du Plessis J, Do Linh San E.
2016. A conservation assessment of Canis mesomelas. In Child MF, Roxburgh L, Do Linh San E, Raimondo D, Davies-
Mostert HT, editors. The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. South African National Biodiversity
Institute and Endangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa.
Emmanuel Do Linh San
The Black-backed Jackal is endemic to sub-Saharan
Africa and is widespread. It is considered a generalist
canid with an opportunistic lifestyle and occupies most
habitats within the assessment region. Black-backed
Jackals are the dominant predators of livestock in the
assessment region and are thus widely persecuted in an
attempt to reduce population size and associated
livestock losses. However, despite centuries of population
reduction efforts, Black-backed Jackals still persist on
farmlands and in most conservation areas. Therefore,
these population control efforts appear ineffective, but
may result in temporary and localised reductions in
population size. Further, lethal control in combination with
other management practices may result in local
extirpations. Although no accurate population estimates
are available, we estimate that there are more than 10,000
individuals in the assessment region, and anecdotal
evidence suggests that Black-backed Jackal population
size and distribution may have increased over the last 15
years. Therefore, due to this resilience, irrespective of
concerted control efforts, we infer that this species will
persist, and list it as Least Concern.
Regional population effects: The Black-backed Jackal’s
range within the assessment region is continuous with the
rest of its southern African range and we suspect that
dispersal across geo-political boundaries occurs. Black-
backed Jackals appear to have few dispersal barriers
(Ferguson et al. 1983; Minnie 2016) and may disperse
over long distances, exceeding 100 km (Bothma 1971;
Ferguson et al. 1983; Humphries et al. 2016; Minnie 2016).
Thus, there is no reason to believe that trans-regional and
trans-boundary movements will decrease in the future.
The Black-backed Jackal is endemic to sub-Saharan
Africa (Loveridge & Nel 2004). It occurs in two
geographically isolated populations: one in East Africa
and another in southern Africa. The two populations are
separated by the Mozambican Gap (from the Zambezi
river to Tanzania; Kingdon 1977). According to Ansell
(1960), Black-backed Jackals are absent from much of
equatorial Africa. This disjunct distributional pattern occurs
in other arid-adapted African endemics (e.g. Aardwolf
Proteles cristatus and Bat-eared Fox Otocyon megalotis;
Loveridge & Nel 2004), and suggests that these two
populations were once connected during the drier
conditions of the Pleistocene (Loveridge & Nel 2004,
2013; Skinner & Chimimba 2005). The northern
subspecies, C. m. schmidti, occupies southern Ethiopia,
southern Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and northern
Tanzania. The range of the southern subspecies,
C. m. mesomelas, extends from the southern part of South
Africa to the southwestern part of Angola, northern
Botswana, central Zimbabwe, and southwestern
Mozambique (Hoffmann 2014). Recent molecular research
suggests that these two subspecies may in fact warrant
species status owing to divergence in mitochondrial
Black-backed Jackals play a vital role in predator–
prey interactions and ecosystem functioning. This
role may be even more pronounced in areas
where large carnivores have been extirpated
(e.g. farmlands) leaving Black-backed Jackals
(and Caracals) to fulfil the role of apex predators.
Canis mesomelas | 2 The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
Figure 1. Distribution records for Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) within the assessment region
lineages, but additional research on a wider geographical
scale is required in support of this hypothesis (Atickem et
al. 2017). However, if this hypothesis is supported and the
current and “new” species exhibit reduced distributional
ranges and lower population densities, it may require a
revision of their conservation status (Atickem et al. 2017).
In the assessment region, Black-backed Jackals
historically occurred throughout Swaziland, in several
locations in Lesotho, and throughout South Africa –
except for the Southern Coast Forests around Knysna,
Western Cape Province (Skinner & Chimimba 2005), and
the Highveld of the former Transvaal Province until the
early 1950s (van der Merwe 1953).
Currently, they occur throughout most of Lesotho,
Swaziland and South Africa. They are widespread across
most conservation and livestock farming areas (Figure 1;
Loveridge & Nel 2004). The previous assessment
Country Presence Origin
Botswana Extant Native
Lesotho Extant Native
Mozambique Extant Native
Namibia Extant Native
South Africa Extant Native
Swaziland Extant Native
Zimbabwe Extant Native
indicated that they did not occur along the coast and the
immediate interior between Storms River and Port
Elizabeth. However, based on predator–livestock conflict
reports from small stock farmers (Minnie 2009; DEDEA
problem animal control register 2011 – G. Ferreira pers.
comm. 2012), it seems that the population is expanding
into this area. They appear to be absent from highly
developed cities, towns and settlements. However,
abundance in urban areas may be underestimated due to
a lack of survey effort. Recently, vocalisations have been
recorded in residential areas in Midrand, Gauteng
Province (Z.J.K. Madikiza pers. comm. 2014). Other
generalist canids (e.g. Red Foxes Vulpes vulpes:
Soulsbury et al. 2007; Coyotes Canis latrans: Gese &
Bekoff 2004) persist successfully in urban areas (i.e. they
are urban exploiters). This may also be the case for Black-
backed Jackals as, similar to several other canids, they
are dietary generalists with a high reproductive output and
are behaviourally flexible. These attributes may assist
them in becoming successful urban exploiters.
Black-backed Jackals experience local fluctuations in
density with the possibility of local extirpations based on
the intensity of predator control programmes (Beinart
1998). Their local densities may also fluctuate according
to the presence of other sympatric predators, most
notably Caracal (Caracal caracal; Ferreira 1988). This may
result in fluctuations of their distributional range, which is
highlighted by the expansion of the population into
previously extirpated areas such as the Baviaanskloof
Mega-Reserve, the mountains east of Cradock, and the
areas south of the N2 between Humansdorp and Cape St
Francis in the Eastern Cape Province.
Table 1. Countries of occurrence within southern Africa
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland Canis mesomelas | 3
Several authors in southern Africa have estimated local
population size. For example, in the Drakensberg
Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal Province, Rowe-Rowe (1982)
estimated densities of 0.34–0.40 individual / km². In the
Free State and Northern Cape provinces, estimated
densities were 0.02 individual / km² on game farms that
actively managed Black-backed Jackals compared to 0.33
to 0.43 individual / km² on game farms that did not (Klare
et al. 2010; Kamler et al. 2013). Further, on the game
farms that did not actively manage jackals, jackal density
varied depending on prey diversity and abundance (Klare
et al. 2010). Thus, Black-backed Jackal densities likely
vary depending on the dispersion and abundance of
resources, as well as the intensity and frequency of
predator management. Local population density may also
be influenced by the density and composition of the
carnivore community (e.g. African Lion Panthera leo,
Leopard Panthera pardus, Spotted Hyaena Crocuta
crocuta, and Caracal). Apex predators may facilitate
scavenging opportunities for Black-backed Jackals
resulting in increased local densities, but may also
increase the risk of predation (i.e. interspecific
competition) resulting in reduced local densities (Brassine
& Parker 2012; Minnie 2016). Consequently, it is expected
that Black-backed Jackal population density should vary
greatly in the assessment region.
The regional variation in population density relative to
local resource abundance (amongst other factors) is
exemplified by the Black-backed Jackal populations on
the Namibian coast. Nel et al. (2013) compared jackal
densities between three areas that differ markedly in
resource availability. Densities varied from 0.07 individual /
km² along the Skeleton coast (low food resources), to
2.91 individuals / km² at Sandwich harbour (intermediate),
reaching a maximum of 13.05 individuals / km² at Cape
Cross (high). Due to a localised increase in resource
abundance in the latter area, jackals were non-territorial
with widely overlapping home ranges.
To date, no accurate population estimates for the Black-
backed Jackal within the assessment region exist, and
extrapolating local population densities to the entire
assessment region is inappropriate and may result in
extremely inaccurate population estimations. However,
owing to the minimum densities mentioned above and the
wide distribution of this species in the assessment region,
there are likely over 10,000 mature individuals in the
population. Anecdotal evidence suggests that numbers
have increased over the last 15 years in some areas
(Avenant & du Plessis 2008; du Plessis 2013). Thus, owing
to this species’ wide distributional range and persistence
in the face of persecution, it is expected that the
population will not decline in the future. However, lethal
control in combination with other management practices
may result in local extirpations (Walton & Joly 2003;
Blaum et al. 2009; Kamler et al. 2013). Individuals from
neighbouring areas will re-establish territories in these
vacant areas (i.e. compensatory immigration; Minnie
Current population trend: Stable, based on extent of
occurrence, wide habitat tolerance and persistence
despite concerted population reduction efforts.
Continuing decline in mature individuals: Unknown, but
Number of mature individuals in population: The exact
number is unknown, but is expected to be more than
10,000 mature individuals.
Number of mature individuals in largest subpopulation:
Number of subpopulations: The existence of genetic
subpopulations have been documented for Black-backed
Jackals in the North West and Gauteng provinces (James
et al. 2017) and in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape
provinces (Minnie 2016). However, the number of
subpopulations in the assessment region is unknown.
Severely fragmented: No. Black-backed Jackals have a
broad habitat tolerance and can exist in agricultural and
Habitats and Ecology
Black-backed Jackals are relatively unspecialised and well-
suited for an opportunistic lifestyle in a wide variety of
habitats (Loveridge & Nel 2013). They have a wide habitat
tolerance, occupying habitats including Highveld
grassland (Morwe 2013), montane grassland (Rowe-Rowe
1982), scrubland (Skinner & Chimimba 2005), savannah
(Wyman 1967; Kingdon 1977; Lamprecht 1978; Moehlman
1983; Fuller et al. 1989; Estes 1991), woodland savannah
mosaics (Smithers 1971; Loveridge & Macdonald 2002)
and farmland. The Black-backed Jackal has long been
perceived as an arid-adapted species (Loveridge & Nel
2013). However, it also occurs in more mesic areas (mean
annual precipitation > 1,000 mm; Rowe-Rowe 1982, 1992;
Loveridge & Nel 2013) with recent expansions into the
more mesic South Coast area (Western Cape), where it
was previously absent (see Distribution above). It shows
a preference for open habitats, but will occupy dense
vegetation (Hoffmann 2014).
Until recently, they were considered generalist omnivores
(cf. Hayward et al. 2017), consuming whatever resource is
readily available (Loveridge & Macdonald 2003; Kok & Nel
2004; Klare et al. 2010; Fourie et al. 2015; Pohl 2015) and
scavenging when the opportunity arises. However, they
actively hunt small- to medium-sized mammalian prey
(Kamler et al. 2010, 2012a; Klare et al. 2010), but also prey
on the fawns/lambs of larger ungulates (Klare et al. 2010).
Although the diet is dominated by mammals, they
supplement their diet with fruit, birds, reptiles, amphibians,
insects, and fish (Do Linh San et al. 2009; Brassine &
Parker 2012; Kamler et al. 2012a; Morwe 2013; van de
Ven et al. 2013; Minnie 2016). The predominance of small-
to medium-sized mammals may reflect an optimal
foraging strategy, as Black-backed Jackals prefer to prey
on mammals with a body mass of 14–26 kg (Hayward et
al. 2017). Additionally, they significantly prefer small
ungulates (< 30 kg) which hide their young
(e.g. Springbok Antidorcas marsupialis and Common
Duiker Sylvicapra grimmia; Hayward et al. 2017).
Consequently, they have a wide dietary niche that
expands and contracts in relation to the local availability
and dispersion of resources (Kaunda & Skinner 2003;
Klare et al. 2010; Kamler et al. 2012b; Morwe 2013; Pohl
2015; Drouilly et al. in press). Additionally, in the presence
of larger carnivores, such as Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus),
Lions, and Leopards, scavenged food sources may
contribute substantially to their diet (e.g. Fourie et al.
2015; Minnie 2016), but incongruences in the literature
indicate that this might not be the case throughout the
assessment region (e.g. Brassine & Parker 2012; Yarnell
et al. 2013; Drouilly et al. in press).
Canis mesomelas | 4 The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
In a stable social system, they are monogamous
(Moehlman 1987), with the dominant mated pair
defending a mutually exclusive breeding territory
(Loveridge & Nel 2004). Pair formation may increase
hunting success (Lamprecht 1978) and is critical for
territorial defence and successful pup rearing (Moehlman
1987). Social structure varies and may consist of family
groups (1–8 individuals; Rowe-Rowe 1978, 1984)
incorporating the dominant pair and their offspring
(Ferguson et al. 1983; Loveridge & Macdonald 2001), as
well as subadults that have delayed dispersal to assist in
raising their siblings (i.e. helpers; Moehlman 1979; Rowe-
Rowe 1982; Ferguson et al. 1983). Additionally, the
territorial pair may tolerate subordinate individuals on the
fringe of its territory (i.e. floaters; Ferguson et al. 1983).
Territorial relaxation/collapse may occur during periods of
high resource abundance (e.g. at seal colonies in
Namibia; Jenner et al. 2011; Nel et al. 2013), where the
dominant pair allows other individuals into its territory
(Macdonald 1979; Rowe-Rowe 1982; Ferguson et al.
1983; Hiscocks & Perrin 1988; McKenzie 1990;
Oosthuizen et al. 1997; Loveridge & Macdonald 2001,
Black-backed Jackal mating peaks during winter (Skead
1973) and gestation lasts for 60–70 days (Bernard & Stuart
1992; McKenzie 1993; Walton & Joly 2003). Parturition
usually occurs from winter to early spring (Bothma 1971;
Bernard & Stuart 1992; McKenzie 1993). Importantly,
temporal variation in this reproductive pattern may occur
in response to resource availability and abundance (Fairall
1968; Rowe-Rowe 1978; Bernard & Stuart 1992; McKenzie
1993; Bingham & Purchase 2002; Walton & Joly 2003).
Females usually have one litter per year, with a litter size
of 1–9, depending on the female’s body condition (Minnie
et al. 2016) and social status (Loveridge & Nel 2013).
Additionally, populations experiencing high levels of
anthropogenic mortality may produce larger litters relative
to populations that are lightly managed or unmanaged
(i.e. compensatory reproduction; Minnie et al. 2016).
Pups usually remain in the den from August to November,
emerge after 3 weeks, and are weaned at 8–9 weeks of
age (Ferguson et al. 1983). They start foraging with their
parents at 3 months of age, but remain in close proximity
(≤ 2 km) to the den until 6 months of age (Ferguson et al.
1983; Moehlman 1987). When they are approximately 7
months old, they start moving further from the den.
They become sexually mature at 11 months, but only start
reproducing at 2 years of age (Ferguson et al. 1983;
Moehlman 1987). However, populations that are lethally
managed may compensate for increased mortality and
reproduce at younger ages (i.e. compensatory
reproduction; Minnie et al. 2016). Young individuals can
stay in the natal territory and assist with rearing the next
litter (i.e. helpers), or disperse in search of mates and a
territory (Ferguson et al. 1983; Moehlman 1987).
According to Rowe-Rowe (1992), adults seldom live
beyond 7 years.
Home range size varies considerably, with ranges
between 4 and 33 km2 being reported. Humphries et al
(2016) estimated mean resident home ranges (95% FK)
across seasons for adult males, adult females and juvenile
males; these were 11.4 ± 4.3 km2, 5.6 ± 0.36 km2 and
2.15 ± 0.45 km2, respectively. While in the Kalahari
Gemsbok National Park (Northern Cape) home ranges
averaged between 2.56 and 8.8 km2 (Ferguson et al
1983). Variations in home range size may be attributed to
variation in food availability, as individuals occupying
areas with higher prey density tend to have smaller home
ranges (e.g. Ferguson et al. 1983). Further, seasonal
variation is apparent and home range size decreases
during the whelping season (Loveridge & Macdonald
Home range size also varies between social classes, with
territorial adults having smaller home ranges than
subadults (e.g. Ferguson et al. 1983). This may be due to
subordinate individuals dispersing in search of mates and
territories, whereas dominant pairs are resident (Ferguson
et al. 1983; Humphries et al. 2016). In general, the home
ranges of dominant pairs do not overlap (< 10 %) with
other mated pairs (Ferguson et al. 1983). However, the
home ranges of subordinate individuals may overlap
extensively with both subordinate and dominant
individuals (Ferguson et al. 1983; Rowe-Rowe 1982).
Ecosystem and cultural services: Black-backed Jackals
play a vital role in predator–prey interactions and
ecosystem functioning. This role may be even more
pronounced in areas where large carnivores have been
Photo 1. Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) pups are born between the end of winter and the end of spring, and litter size
varies between one and nine (Emmanuel Do Linh San)
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland Canis mesomelas | 5
part of the assessment area (northern Limpopo,
Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces), they occur
in sympatry with Side-striped Jackals (Canis adustus).
Here, Black-backed Jackals may aggressively exclude
Side-striped Jackals from preferred habitats, as observed
in Zimbabwe (Loveridge 1999).
The Black-backed Jackal is a common character in
Bushmen, Hottentot, and Bantu folklore and is often
portrayed as a trickster (Stewart 2004). Jackals in general
are seen as sly and greedy and depict both the
weaknesses and strengths of human nature (Stewart
2004). Character traits such as vanity, greed, naïvety,
selfishness, and cruelty are often synonymous with jackals
(Stewart 2004). In most cases, the trickster is a small
creature that poses no threat to larger animals and often
outwits enemies that have a competitive advantage
(Stewart 2004). Additionally, the Black-backed Jackal is
also seen as an important ancestral spirit manifestation for
both isiXhosa and isiZulu people (P. Bernard pers. comm.
2015). Traditional healers have spirit animal guides and
these are shown in a dream to the healer. It is then
incumbent on the healer to incorporate the skin of the
animal guides into their traditional garb. Black-backed
Jackal skins are often incorporated into the head-gear
(known as isidlokolo) of a traditional healer if the animal is
that healer’s animal guide (P. Bernard pers. comm. 2015).
Use and Trade
No significant trade in Black-backed Jackal products
exists (Hoffmann 2014). However, infrequent trade has
been documented, including trophy hunting (L. Minnie
pers. obs. 2013) and the sale of skins in the curio trade,
but this should have little effect on population persistence.
The extent of use of Black-backed Jackal products is
unknown but it has been recorded. For example, body
parts are used for cultural purposes (Avenant 2004) such
extirpated (e.g. farmlands) leaving Black-backed Jackals
(and Caracals) to fulfil the role of apex predators.
Consequently, they may regulate populations of smaller
carnivores and prey (du Plessis 2013; Bagniewska &
Kamler 2014). Given their preference for small- to medium-
sized ungulates, they may regulate the populations of
species falling within this preferred prey weight range
(e.g. Springbok: Klare et al. 2010; Morwe 2013; Blesbok
Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi: du Plessis 1972).
Black-backed Jackals consume small rodents, thus it is
conceivable that they may regulate these populations. For
example, Bagniewska and Kamler (2014) showed that
they may suppress prey populations such as Cape
Ground Squirrels (Xerus inauris) and hares (Lepus spp.).
However, little evidence in support of this prey regulation
hypothesis exists (Swanepoel et al. 2017). Thus, the role
of this species in regulating crop pests and the spread of
diseases by these pests (many of these rodent species act
as disease vectors), as well as other herbivores which may
compete with livestock for grazing (e.g. Hyrax Procavia
capensis: Pohl 2015) is unclear.
Black-backed Jackals may also suppress smaller
carnivore populations via lethal (intraguild predation; e.g.
Yellow Mongoose Cynictis penicillata, African Striped
Weasel Poecilogale albinucha, Small-spotted Genet
Genetta genetta, and Bat-eared Fox: Klare et al. 2010;
Kamler et al. 2012a; Bagniewska & Kamler 2014; Drouilly
et al. in press) and non-lethal (competition; e.g. Cape Fox
Vulpes chama: Kamler et al. 2013) interactions.
Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that the competitive
interactions between Black-backed Jackals and Caracals
on livestock farms may produce concurrent fluctuations in
population densities (du Plessis 2013). When Black-
backed Jackal densities are reduced due to human
persecution, Caracal densities apparently increase
(Pringle & Pringle 1979; Ferreira 1988). In the northeastern
Category Applicable? Rationale Proportion of
total harvest Trend
Subsistence use Yes A source of meat in some areas. Body parts used
for cultural purposes and traditional medicine.
Commercial use Yes Hunted for trophies and skin. Unknown Unknown
Harvest from wild population Yes Hunted for trophies and skin. Unknown Unknown
Harvest from ranched population - - - -
Harvest from captive population - - - -
Table 2. Use and trade summary for the Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas)
Net effect Unknown
Data quality Unknown
Rationale Black-backed Jackals prey on valued ungulate species on wildlife ranches. Consequently some ranchers actively
manage Black-backed Jackal population to reduce population size.
To date, no assessment of the effectiveness of various Black-backed Jackal management strategies on wildlife
ranches has been conducted. However, suggested management actions may include: 1) Concentrating management
interventions prior to, or during lambing/fawning periods; 2) Fencing off valuable or vulnerable species; 3) Using a
combination of management strategies and rotating between these; 4) Switching to ungulate species that are less
susceptible to jackal predation; and 5) Increase the number of alternate prey (e.g. medium-sized mammals) which
may dilute predation on ungulates.
Table 3. Possible net effects of wildlife ranching on the Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) and subsequent management
Canis mesomelas | 6 The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
as traditional medicine (Hoffmann 2014; Williams &
Whiting 2016) and in certain areas the meat is consumed
(Avenant 2004; L. Minnie pers. obs. 2013). The impacts of
use and trade on Black-backed Jackal populations is
presumed to be negligible. Additionally, several
researchers have used (e.g. Bingham & Purchase 2002;
Brassine 2011; Minnie 2016), or are currently using dead
Black-backed Jackals for research purposes. These
specimens are collected from farm and reserve managers
who killed them, presumably to reduce predation impacts
on valued ungulate species and livestock. This retaliatory
killing of Black-backed Jackals is probably the largest
threat to population persistence.
The recent trend in the conversion of livestock farms to
wildlife ranches may represent a land use change that
provides a more natural habitat for Black-backed Jackals
than livestock farms. This may be ascribed to a more
“natural” prey base (e.g. indigenous ungulates vs.
introduced livestock) on some ranches. In some cases,
ranch managers do not manage Black-backed Jackal
populations, but lethal management appears to be on the
increase (e.g. De Waal 2009; Klare et al. 2010; du Plessis
2013; Pirie et al. 2017) as wildlife ranching is in conflict
with predators (Thorn et al. 2012; Schepers 2016; Pirie et
al. 2017). These populations are managed to reduce
predation on valued ungulate species (e.g. high-value
colour morphs and trophy animals), and the value of
ungulate species may be directly proportional to
retaliatory killing (Pirie et al. 2017). The variation in
intensity of lethal control between land uses (i.e. game
ranch vs. livestock farm) has not been rigorously
quantified. However, it appears that in some cases ranch
managers have a more negative attitude towards
predators than livestock farmers (Pirie et al. 2017). Thus, it
is not possible to discern the net effects of wildlife
ranching on the Black-backed Jackal.
Within the assessment region, Black-backed Jackals are
hunted, trapped and illegally poisoned for their role as
livestock and ungulate predators. Persecution occurs in
most livestock farming areas and in some game farming
areas (Beinart 1998; van Niekerk 2010; du Plessis 2013;
Badenhorst 2014; Minnie 2016; Schepers 2016; Pirie et al.
2017), and is widespread across the assessment region
(Photo 2). Historically, hunting clubs and jackal-proof
fencing was subsidised by the government to assist
farmers with Black-backed Jackal population control
(Stadler 2006; Bergman et al. 2013). These hunting clubs
killed a large number of individuals (e.g. Gunter 2008;
Bothma 2012; Conradie 2012). For example, Oranjejag
killed an average of 786 Black-backed Jackals per year in
the Free State Province between 1959 and 1991 (Bothma
2012). Culling subsequently declined after the
abolishment of government subsidies, but a recent (2009
onwards) resurgence in culling operations over large
areas has occurred (van Niekerk 2010; du Plessis 2013).
Full-time damage-causing animal hunters are now
commonplace (du Plessis 2013). The intensity of lethal
management presumably fluctuates with actual and
perceived predation rates, but currently we suspect that it
While it is still unknown how many Black-backed Jackals
are killed annually within the assessment region,
population control efforts appear largely ineffective and
probably only succeed in producing a temporary
reduction in local population size (Avenant & du Plessis
Photo 2. Predator control on farmlands in the central Karoo involving Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) and Caracal
(Caracal caracal) (Nathalie Houdin & Denis Palanque, The Karoo Predator Project)
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland Canis mesomelas | 7
2008; Minnie et al. 2016). In fact, despite concerted
population reduction efforts for more than 350 years,
Black-backed Jackals still persist (Stadler 2006; Bergman
et al. 2013; Kerley et al. 2017). This persistence may be
ascribed to their highly adaptable nature and their high
reproductive potential and dispersal abilities (du Plessis et
al. 2015; Minnie et al. 2016). Black-backed Jackal
populations that are subject to high levels of
anthropogenic mortality may start reproducing at younger
ages and produce larger litters (i.e. compensatory
reproduction; Minnie et al. 2016). This is attributed to a
disruption in the normal, mutually exclusive, territorial
structure – due to high levels of lethal management –
which allows younger individuals to reproduce (Minnie et
al. 2016). Further, the variation in management intensity
within the assessment region results in the formation of a
source-sink system, which allows for compensatory
immigration (Minnie 2016). Here, compensatory
immigration occurs when individuals from unmanaged or
lightly managed areas (e.g. conservation areas) disperse
into the vacant territories in managed areas (e.g. livestock
farms; Minnie 2016; Minnie et al. 2016). The combination
of compensatory reproduction and dispersal is likely the
reason for their persistence in the face of severe
anthropogenic mortality, and may continue to negate
population reduction efforts.
Black-backed Jackals are also persecuted for their role as
diseases vectors (e.g. canine distemper virus, rabies virus
and anthrax; Bellan et al. 2012), mostly in the central
southern African part of their distributional range
(Loveridge & Nel 2004). This thus represents a major
cause of mortality within these areas. The efficacy of these
management programmes is questionable and McKenzie
(1993) suggests that it may actually promote disease
transmission via increased dispersal and agonistic
interactions associated with a source–sink system.
However, the impact of these diseases on Black-backed
Jackal populations within the assessment region is
Urbanisation and human population growth have resulted
in habitat transformation, which has been associated with
the decline of several species. Although there are no
accurate estimates of Black-backed Jackal population
densities in the assessment area, it appears that
agricultural habitat transformation does not pose a serious
threat to Black-backed Jackals in the assessment area, as
they are still widespread in these areas. Conversely,
habitat transformations associated with agricultural
expansion may contribute to the success of opportunistic
species by providing anthropogenic food subsidies (Oro
et al. 2013). Anthropogenic food subsidies such as road
kill, naïve livestock and illegal garbage dumps have been
related to artificially inflated population sizes of Golden
Jackal (Canis aureus; Yom-Tov et al. 1995) and Coyotes
(Fedriani et al. 2001). This may also be the case for Black-
backed Jackal populations. Thus, anthropogenic habitat
transformation may have improved the extent and quality
of habitats available to this species.
Current habitat trend: Stable
Black-backed Jackals are widely distributed and occur in
most protected areas within the assessment region.
Additionally, a large proportion of the population occurs
outside protected areas, particularly in livestock farming
areas. The Black-backed Jackal is not included in the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices nor is it
included in the South African Threatened or Protected
Species (TOPS) Regulations. Therefore, it has no legal
protection outside protected areas. The largest threat to
the Black-backed Jackal is lethal management actions
aimed at reducing population size and associated
livestock and ungulate losses. Although temporary
reduction and local extirpations in response to lethal
management actions have been documented (e.g. Blaum
et al. 2009; Kamler et al. 2013; Walton & Joly 2003), Black-
backed Jackals have persisted in these farming areas
despite extensive lethal management (> 350 years;
Stadler 2006; Avenant & du Plessis 2008; du Plessis 2013;
Kerley et al. 2017) and are expected to persist into the
Rank Threat description Evidence in the
scientific literature Data quality Scale of
study Current trend
1 5.1.3 Persecution/Control: hunting,
trapping and poisoning Black-baked
Jackals due to their role as livestock
and ungulate predators.
Minnie et al. 2016
Unknown. May be
increasing owing to high
levels of perceived/actual
predation on livestock and
valued ungulate species.
2 4.1 Roads & Railroads: mortality from
C.J. Tambling pers.
Collinson et al. 2015
3 5.1.1 Hunting & Collecting Terrestrial
Animals: trophy hunting, curio trade,
traditional medicine, cultural use and
L. Minnie pers. obs. 2013
Williams & Whiting 2016
Unknown, but the impact is
considered relatively low.
Table 4. Threats to the Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) ranked in order of severity with corresponding evidence (based
on IUCN threat categories, with regional context)
Canis mesomelas | 8 The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
future. Thus, no active conservation efforts are currently
required. However, the response of Black-backed Jackal
populations to management interventions, as well as the
effectiveness of these management interventions in
reducing livestock and ungulate predation, is unknown.
Thus, it is extremely important to accurately monitor Black-
backed Jackal populations throughout the assessment
region to determine distribution and abundance, as well
as the impact of predator management actions on local
populations. This will provide the necessary baseline
information to make informed conservation and
management decisions. Additionally, conservation efforts
aimed at reducing human–wildlife conflict are urgently
Recomme nd ations for land managers and
practitioners: Several predator and livestock
management techniques have been employed to reduce
predation on livestock. However, the efficacy of these
techniques in reducing predation as well as the impacts
on Black-backed Jackal populations are unknown, and
likely vary tremendously throughout the assessment
region. Thus, we cannot provide effective recommendations
for land managers, until these methods have been
systematically evaluated. However, we suggest some
management actions that, according to anecdotal
evidence, have been successful in certain areas (Table 5).
Du Plessis (2013) reviewed the management actions used
to reduce livestock predation by Black-backed Jackal and
suggested that non-lethal, preventative and exclusion
techniques are the most conservation-friendly. Lethal
management should be avoided, if possible, as Black-
backed Jackal populations compensate for increased
mortality by producing larger litters at younger ages
(Minnie et al. 2016). However, when lethal management is
employed, it should be applied selectively to ensure that
the territorial structure of Black-backed Jackals remains
intact. This may reduce compensatory immigration from
neighbouring areas (Minnie 2016). Avoiding these
compensatory life-history responses (reproduction and
immigration), which may negate population reduction
efforts (Minnie et al. 2016), may assist in the effective
management of Black-backed Jackal predation on
livestock and valued ungulate species. Further, Black-
backed Jackals are highly adaptable and it has been
suggested that they habituate to specific methods. Thus,
we suggest using a combination of management
strategies and rotating between these to reduce the
chances of Black-backed Jackals learning to bypass these
measures. Finally, it is of the utmost importance that land
managers keep accurate records of the population trends
and the efficacy of management interventions, which will
assist in effective adaptive management.
The following management programmes, information
centres and collaborative initiatives should be of interest to
managers, game ranchers and farmers, who seek
information and assistance with regards to the
management of conflicts between Black-backed Jackals
Canis–Caracal Programme (CCP), run by the African
Large Predator Research Unit (ALPRU), University of
the Free State (UFS): aims at finding solutions to
reduce the widespread impact of predation on the
livestock industry (national). Contact details: Prof.
H.O. de Waal, Department of Animal, Wildlife and
Grassland Sciences and African Large Predator
Research Unit (ALPRU), PO Box 339, Internal Box
70, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, 9300,
South Africa. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Predation Management Information Centre (PMIC):
collating and analysing reliable information on
predation and predation management methods,
which will be made available continuously to a
management information system (MIS). A team of
dedicated staff members handles calls and
enquiries. Experts in the team are available to
provide advice to farmers. The centre is also
responsible for the management of information and
resources. Aim: to generate information that can be
used to reduce the widespread impact of predation
on the livestock industry. A collaborative initiative
between the UFS and the Predation Managemetn
Forum (PMF). Contact details: Email:
PredationMC@ufs.ac.za. Telephone: 051 401 2210
(on week days from 08:00–16:00).
Scientific Assessment on Livestock Predation in
South Africa (PredSA): a collaborative initiative
between the Centre for African Conservation
Ecology, Nelson Mandela University, Department of
Environmental Affairs, Department of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries, Red Meat Research
Development Planning Committee, National Wool
Growers Association, Cape Wools and Mohair Trust.
Contact details: Prof. Graham Kerley, Centre for
African Conservation Ecology (ACE), PO Box 77000,
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port
Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa. Email:
Research priorities: Black-backed Jackals have been
cited as the dominant predators of livestock in the
assessment region (e.g. van Niekerk 2010; du Plessis
2013; Minnie et al. 2016; Kerley et al. 2017) and cause
large financial losses to the livestock production industry
(van Niekerk 2010). Given this dominant role in livestock
predation, it is expected that adequate research would
have been conducted. However, this is not the case, as
most research was spatially and temporally isolated with a
limited scope, and mostly confined to protected areas (du
Plessis et al. 2015). Importantly, many research groups
are currently addressing these priority knowledge gaps.
Below we highlight the thematic areas where research
needs to be prioritised and we suggest some applied
research questions that need to be addressed to reduce
Ecology: A prerequisite for adaptive management is a
sound ecological understanding of the focal species.
Without this information it is difficult to predict the efficacy
of management interventions and the effects thereof on
the behaviour and ecology of target animals. Most
importantly, there is a severe lack of accurate population
estimates for Black-backed Jackals throughout the
assessment region. Thus, a more systematic and regular
monitoring programme is required to understand local
fluctuations in population densities and to provide
important baseline information.
Potential research questions:
What drives distribution and variation in local
How do seasonal fluctuations in resource availability
influence density and social structure?
What are the environmental drivers of predation?
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland Canis mesomelas | 9
Evidence in the
1 2.1 Site/Area
research to inform
van Niekerk 2010
du Plessis 2013
Strategic direction for
future research, and
Bloemfontein (NMB); Centre
University of the Free State
Programme (CCP), UFS;
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Conservation Programme; Neil
Assessment of Livestock
Predation in South Africa
(PredSA), Centre for African
Conservation Ecology (ACE),
Nelson Mandela University
Management Forum (PMF)
2 3.1 Species
both on livestock
management. Use a
combination of site-
and rotate between
methods to prevent
Avenant & du Plessis
Avenant et al. 2009
du Plessis 2013
Local - NMB; CEM, UFS; CCP, UFS;
EWT; Neil Viljoen Predation
Management; ACE, NMU;
School of Biology and
(SBES), University of
3 2.1 Site/Area
successful in certain
situations. But, guard
dogs also kill Black-
Marker et al. 2005
du Plessis 2013
Potgieter et al. 2013,
McManus et al. 2014
Leijenaar et al. 2015
Local - Cheetah Conservation Fund
Table 5. Conservation interventions for the Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) ranked in order of effectiveness with
corresponding evidence (based on IUCN action categories, with regional context) *table continues on page 10
What is the level of dispersal between various land
uses and what drives this dispersal (sensu Minnie
To what extent, and under which conditions do
Black-backed Jackals display compensatory
reproduction (sensu Minnie et al. 2016)?
Can “problem individuals” (i.e. sections of a
population that consume more livestock/ungulates
than others) be identified?
What is the ecological role of the Black-backed
Jackal (i.e. impacts on associated predator and prey
Predator and livestock management techniques: Relatively
little research has focussed on the role of Black-backed
Jackals as predators of livestock (Beinart 1998; van Sittert
1998; du Plessis 2013) and ungulates, as well as the
various predator and livestock management methods
employed to reduce livestock predation (e.g. du Plessis
2013; McManus et al. 2014). This limits our ability to
effectively manage livestock and ungulate predation. Most
information on these methods is contained in popular
literature (du Plessis 2013). Therefore, research needs to
focus on accurately assessing the efficacy of various
management methods. Preferably this should be
conducted within an adaptive management framework,
which will assist in developing effective management
regimes aimed at reducing human–carnivore conflict.
Additionally, quantitative information on the extent of
livestock and wildlife predation across the assessment
region is required to substantiate reported losses, and
provide scientifically defensible grounds for management
Potential research questions:
What are the spatial and temporal patterns of
predation on livestock/ungulates?
Which factors drive variation in local predation
What is the viability and efficacy of various
Which variables influence the local efficacy of
various management methods?
Canis mesomelas | 10 The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
Rank Intervention description
evidence Demonstrated impact
4 4.3 Awareness & Communications:
Collecting and disseminating
information on the efficacy of holistic
- Anecdotal - The Predation
(PMF), consisting of
livestock and game
evidence suggests that
some farmers’ perceptions
have been swayed and
they are adopting more
UFS; The Karoo
4 2.1 Site/Area Management: livestock
herding (e.g. eco-rangers or herders).
- Anecdotal - - -
4 2.1 Site/Area Management: frightening
- Anecdotal - - -
4 2.1 Site/Area Management: isolating
vulnerable livestock (e.g. during
- Anecdotal - - -
4 2.1 Site/Area Management:
interventions prior to, or in, lambing
- Anecdotal - - -
4 2.1 Site/Area Management: switching
to livestock breeds that are less
susceptible to predation.
- Anecdotal - - -
4 2.1 Site/Area Management: increase
the number of alternate prey (e.g.
medium-sized mammals) which may
dilute predation on livestock.
- Anecdotal - - -
Table 5 (continued). Conservation interventions for the Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) ranked in order of effectiveness
with corresponding evidence (based on IUCN action categories, with regional context)
Economics: Even though Black-backed Jackals are the
dominant predators of livestock in the assessment region,
surprisingly little information on the extent of this predation
is available (see Strauss 2009; van Niekerk 2010). Thus,
researchers need to focus on estimating the extent of
predation, the economic consequences of this, as well as
the economic costs of employing various livestock and
predator management techniques.
Potential research questions:
What are the direct and indirect economic costs of
What are the short- and long-term costs and benefits
of various management techniques?
Social: In many cases, the perception of the landowner is
more important in driving management decisions than the
actual predation impact (e.g. Minnie et al. 2015). However,
there is a paucity of information on the perceptions of
various stakeholders towards Black-backed Jackals,
predation and associated management actions.
Understanding these perceptions and their drivers may
assist in developing sustainable management strategies.
Without this information, the acceptance of any proposed
management interventions is unlikely (du Plessis 2013).
Potential research questions:
Who are the interested and affected parties?
What drives the perceptions of these stakeholders?
Considering the interrelatedness of these various aspects,
it is important that all stakeholders – including ecologists,
social scientists, economists, wildlife managers, farmers,
ranchers and government officials – contribute to the
development of a sustainable, adaptive management
strategy. Future research should be conducted
systematically, as a combined effort, to ensure that the
priority knowledge gaps are filled (see du Plessis 2013).
Ongoing research projects and research foci:
Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE),
Nelson Mandela University and University of
Mpumalanga (UMP): Diet, reproduction, population
structure, regional dispersal and the impacts of
lethal management on population structure.
Centre for Wildlife Management, University of
Pretoria: Diet and social structure.
Cheetah Conservation Fund: Livestock guarding
Endangered Wildlife Trust: Human–carnivore
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland Canis mesomelas | 11
Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa,
University of Cape Town (UCT): Human–carnivore
conflict and economics.
Karoo Predator Ecology And Coexistence
Experiment Project, Cape Leopard Trust: Human–
Karoo Predator Project, UCT: Diet, spatial ecology
and human–carnivore conflict.
National Museum Bloemfontein and Centre for
Environmental Management, University of the Free
State: Ecology, socio-economics and effects of
management on ecosystem integrity.
North-West Parks: Diet, social structure, space use
and interactions with top-predators.
UMP and Rhodes University: Diet, human–carnivore
conflict and livestock management techniques.
University of Fort Hare and ACE: Diet and
interactions with top-predators.
University of the Free State and African Large
Predator Research Unit: Human–carnivore conflict
Encouraged citizen actions:
Report sightings on virtual museum platforms (for
example, iSpot and MammalMAP), especially
outside protected areas.
Record and report predation on livestock and
Individuals actively managing this species should
report all the dead animals (trapped, shot or
poisoned), as well as confirmed predation events,
including photographs and GPS coordinates, to the
national Predation Management Information Centre
(PMIC; email: PredationMC@ufs.ac.za).
Livestock farmers can assist by encouraging
scientific research on their properties.
Use holistic predator and livestock management
methods. Additionally, employ these methods in an
adaptive management framework to ensure the
collation of information.
Livestock farmers can actively monitor and record
the effectiveness of management methods within an
adaptive management framework. Through liaison
with the scientific community, results can be
accurately recorded and analysed to determine best-
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Risk tolerance Evidentiary
Table 6. Information and interpretation qualifiers for the Black-
backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) assessment
Data Sources and Quality
Canis mesomelas | 12 The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
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