The presence and the extinction of the Golden Jackal Canis aureus from the Island of Corfu, northwestern Greece

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DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.20884.76164 ·
, Marathon, Greece, 2nd International Jackal Symposium, DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.20884.76164
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Abstract
The golden jackal, Canis aureus, was the major terrestrial predator and carcass cleaner on Corfu island. We tried to find out the pattern of its extinction and every possible information, by personal experience and by questioning people from the countryside, farmers, hunters, foresters, locals and visitors etc, directly, with questionnaires or through social networks. We also examined several written sources. It first appeared clearly in literature in 19th century, when Europeans started describing the natural resources of their occupations. Since golden jackals vocalize a lot compared to other mammals, it’s easy even for laymen to know when they are present in an area. Till the early 1960s they used to be very common almost all over Corfu, but then they started declining and the few remaining animals of the 1980s, were not able to keep up for long and so they disappeared in the 1990s. They were mostly common in the lowlands of Corfu, in hilly terrain, in valleys, near wetlands and streams. They avoided the higher altitudes above 500-600m. Their interaction with human was varying, as many people were afraid of them during night-time, but their howling was an amusing attraction in some cases and even sometimes locals were provoking it. Small damage to livestock and crops was reported. Some were hunted for fur in the 1950s-70s and some were hunted for the bounty. It seems that when still common, the numerous jackals were keeping red foxes in low numbers. As to the reason of their extinction we have to mention that in the 1960s and 1970s the lowlands of Corfu started getting overbuilt for infrastructure for tourism. In the same period reduced farming led to a drop of food abundance. Also, the state decided to eliminate wild canids by putting poison baits and traps and by paying hunters for every killed one. Many blame disease or/and pesticides for the extinction. There is still suitable habitat for them in places like Poulades, Korission-Messonghi Valley, Tiflos Valley etc, but it is quite impossible for them to cross the channel between Corfu and the mainland (~2,5km) and recolonize the island. Proceedings of the 2nd International Jackal Symposium, Marathon Bay, Attica Greece 2018 | Request PDF. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328135205_Proceedings_of_the_2nd_International_Jackal_Symposium_Marathon_Bay_Attica_Greece_2018 .
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Ioannis Gasteratos1, Zoi Fondoulakou2
1Ag.Athanasios, Lefkimmi-Corfu,
email: gaster1@otenet.gr
giannisgasteratos@gmail.com
2L.Mavili 9, Kavala,
email: fondoulakou@hotmail.com
Methods
Aknowledgements
Study area
Introduction
Presence, decrease & extinction
The presence and the extinction of the Golden Jackal Canis aureus from the
Island of Corfu, northwestern Greece
Διεύθυνση Δασών Κέρκυρας, Κ.Π.Ε. Κέρκρας, Δ.Σχ.Αργυράδων, Δ.Σχ.Νεοχωρίου, Δ.Σχ.
Περιβολιού, Δ.Σχ. Ριγγλάδων, Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, Αβραμιώτης
Δημήτρης, Αλεξάκη Σοφία, Αργυρός Διονύσης, Ασπιώτης Κώστας, Αυλωνίτης Τάσος, Βασιλάκης
Ιάκωβος, Βασιλάς Γιάννης, Βλάσση Αγαθή, Βλάσσης Αλέκος, Βλάσσης Κώστας, Βλάσσης
Νικηφόρος, Βλάχος Νικόλαος, Βογιατζής Νικήτας, Γαστεράτος Βασίλειος, Γαστεράτος Θεόδωρος,
Γαστεράτος Ιωάννης, Γαστεράτος Νικόλαος, Γαστεράτος Σπύρος, Γαστεράτου Ροδόπη †,
Γιαννούλης Νικόλαος, Γουδέλης Γιώργος, Γραμμένος Μέμος, Γύπας Δημήτρης, Δαμασκινός
Αλέκος, Δημέγγελη Αλεξάνδρα, Δημήτρης-Πάγοι, Δόικας Γιώργος, Ζερβός Δημήτρης, Καββαδίας
Νικόλαος, Καββαδίας Σπύρος, Κάκου Αλεξάνδρα, Κάκος Κώστας Καρβούνη Μαρία, Κασταμονίτης,
Κατσαρού Πολυξένη, Κατσαρός Ανδρέας, Κατσιγιάννης Φίλιππος, Κοντογιώργη Κίκη, Κουλούρης
Νικόλαος, Κρητικού Ζαϊρα, Κρώτσης Φώτης, Κυριάκης Ιβάν, Κυριάκη Λίλυ, Λάσκαρης Περικλής,
Λευτεριώτη Άννα Μαρία, Μάνδυλας Νίκος, Μάνδυλας Σπύρος, Μαρτίνη Βικτώρια, Μαυρωνάς
Βασίλης, Μεταλληνός Βασίλης, Μεταλληνός Χριστόφορος, Μίγκλη Δέσποινα, Μίτσουλης Σπύρος,
Μιχαλάς Όθων, Μπεριάτος Γεράσιμος, Μποζίκης Νικόλαος, Μπούκα Βούλα, Νικολούζου Μαρία,
Νικομάνης Θεόδωρος, Νίνου Σταυρούλα, Παπαϊωάννου Μαρία, Παπακωνσταντίνου Δημήτρης,
Παπικινός Πέτρος, Παργινός Βικέντιος, Πηλός Βασίλης, Πολίτη Λουτσία, Πουλής Γιώργος,
Πουλιάση Αγγελική, Πουλιάση Χρύσα, Ρίζου Ιωάννα, Σαββανής Στάθης, Στέφανος-Δουκάδες,
Τόμπρος Σπύρος, Τρικαλιώτης Γιώργος, Τσιριμιάγγος Γιάννης, Τσιριμιάγγου Ελένη, Φαϊτά Μαρία,
Χαλιδιάς Αντώνης, Χανδρινός Γεράσιμος, Χειρδάρη Συριώτη Μαριέττα, Χονδρογιάννης Γιώργος,
Χονδρογιάννης Δημήτρης, Χονδρογιάννης Σπύρος, Χονδρογιάννης Στέφανος, Χριστοφοράτου
Ελένη, Ashcroft Alexina, Av George, Blasko Erika, Bolens Patrick, Chakiris Melita Forte, Ford
Steve, Kav Lilly, Mcintyre Eileen, Soos Edina, Steen Nils, Tsirigoti Sue, Webster Patricia, Zafiris
Madeleine and many more.
The Golden Jackal Canis aureus was the major
terrestrial predator and carcass cleaner on Corfu,
so it’s role in the local ecosystem was important.
Although it was very common and numerous in
the recent past, very few things were known
about its presence, habits etc here. So we tried
for the first time to shed some light on this issue.
Corfu Island is located off northwestern coast of
Greece and very close to Albania. Its landscape is
full of valleys, hills and small mountains. Large
part of the lash vegetation that covers Corfu is
consisted by old olive groves. The fauna of Corfu
is continental as the island is very close to
mainland and during the Last Ice Age the Corfiot
Sea was a valley.
We tried to find out the pattern of its extinction and every possible information by personal experience and by
questioning people (>170) from the countryside, farmers, hunters, foresters, locals and visitors etc, directly, with
questionnaires or through social networks. We also examined several written sources. Since Golden Jackals
vocalize a lot compared to other mammals it’s easy even for laymen to know when they are present in an area.
We don’t have clues about its first presence on the Island. In a Byzantine mosaic of around 450 CE there is a
depiction of a canid strongly resembling Golden Jackal. In 1537 it was written that wild animals and vultures
ate the dead men after a battle and these animals were possibly jackals. It first appears clearly in literature in
19th century when Europeans started describing the natural resources in their occupations. During most of the
the 19th and 20th centuries and until the early 1960s was widespread and common. Groups of up to 5-7 animals
were recorded. A report of 20 seen together near Liapades could mean that several groups may had gathered
after a food source. After the mid 1960s and the 1970s their numbers collapsed. In the 1980s only some groups
were surviving east of Stavros (1980), Ag.Kiriaki (early 1980s) around Valanio/Tsouka (early 1980s), in Poulades
(early 1980s) & some areas of southern Corfu (1980-1990). In Langades the last group was surviving till nearly
mid 1980s when a wildfire destroyed the place they had their dens and later 2 jackals were shot there in 1986.
Solitary jackals were spotted there again in 1989 and 1992. In 1986 3 jackals were seen between Kritika and
Lefkimmi. In ~1990 jackals were heard in Kalamouria and one was seen between Ag.Deka & Stavros. In 1990
there was a group in Dentrilas and occasional observations in Issos. In 1991-2 mammalologist Grémillet found
Golden Jackals in Korission. In 1993 one individual was seen near Marathias (possibly from Dentrilas) and one
in Soronias. Some people believe that a few animals may survive somewhere but without any hard data
supporting this scenario. Some unconfirmed cases: Gavrades (2000), Arvanitopigado (2012), Loutses (2016),
Doukades, Arillas, A.Korakiana and Palies Sinies (2017).
Interspecific interactions - food habits
Their interaction with human was varying as many were afraid of them during night-time, but their howling was
an amusing attraction in some cases and even sometimes locals were provoking it. Small damage to livestock
(chickens, young goats-sheep, rabbits) and crops (grapes and corn) was reported, the first being bigger in
villages with large herds. The damage was in general smaller compared to that made by foxes and martens.
Jackals as opportunists were using a great variety of food sources. Except the above mentioned, they were
feeding on slaughter-house remains, medical center remains, dead animals left in the fields, marsh frogs,
Brown Hares, rodents, wild berries, fruits etc. In places they were blamed for adult sheep/goat predation there
were usually present numerous feral dogs. In the long past it seems they were consuming also human remains
mostly after battle fatalities Some were hunted for their fur in the 1950s-70s and some were hunted for the
bounty. In at least one case someone tried to tame a young jackal. Medium sized dogs were sufficient
protecting livestock and crops. When still common, the numerous jackals were keeping Red Foxes in low
numbers. This was mentioned by British in 19th century and by locals in parts of central and southern Corfu in
the 1960s/1970s.
Conclusions
Golden Jackals persecuted and losing habitat and food sources started declining in the 1960s and the few
remaining animals of the 1980s were not able to keep up for long so they disappeared the 1990s. There is still
suitable habitat for them in places like Poulades, Korission-Messonghi Valley, Tiflos Valley etc, but it is quite
impossible for them to cross the channel between Corfu and mainland (~2,5km) and recolonize the island.
References
Fables, misconceptions, laography
There was a ‘‘fable’ talking about a man that was eating jackals in Roumanades (late 19th cent.). A story almost
identical all over the island describes that someone passed one night on a olive tree to escape jackals. Mothers
used to scare children with the jackals to make them behave. Common was the belief that jackals could
hybridize with foxes giving an offspring called Αληπουτσιάκαλης / Alipoutsiakalis (Fox-jackal) which had more
prolonged howl and was bigger. Possibly this rumor had base at dog x jackal hybrids or just feral dogs.
Τσιάκαλης/Tsiakalis is the Corfiot name for the jackal. Locals from the villages southwest of Lefkimmi are called
τσιακάληδες (jackals) in a mocking way. A location near Valanio is named Τσακαλαριά / Tsakalaria (jackal place)
and the villages of Kavalovouno were called some times in the past Τσακαλοχώρια / Tsakalochoria (jackal
villages), after the jackals.
Reasons of extinction
In the 1960s and 1970s the lowlands of Corfu started getting overbuilt for infrastructure for tourism. The same
period less farming made food less abundant. Additionally the state decided to eliminate wild canids, putting
poison and traps and paying hunters for every dead pest (1947-1985). Although locals many times blame
disease or pesticides for the extinction, possibly the use of poison baits was the main reason of their
extermination and the same period other scavenger (vulture and raven) populations also collapsed.
Habitat
Golden Jackals were mostly common in the lowlands of Corfu, in hilly terrain, in valleys, near wetlands and
streams. It seems they avoided altitudes above 500-600m.
1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
Common in almost
every suitable
habitat
Common in almost
every suitable
habitat and
decrease in very
few populations
Still common in
most places in the
beginning of the
decade but
declining and
disappearing later
on
Collapsing in most
places and still
common in few
locations
Isolated jackal
groups in the 1st
half of the decade
1-3 groups and
some possibly
single individual
records in the 1st
half of the decade
Not confirmed
records
Figure 5. Golden Jackal stuffed with hay,
from the area of Kritika in southern Corfu.
Zoological Research Museum Alexander
Koenig in Bonn. Collected in 1961 by
Niethammer.
ZFMK 61.193
Figure 4. Golden Jackal from Corfu (sold
in fur store in Corfu Town). Zoological
Research Museum Alexander Koenig in
Bonn. Collected in 1961 by Niethammer.
ZFMK 93.620
Figure 3. Canid resembling Golden Jackal
in mosaic from the Byzantine Collection, in
the Old Fortress of Corfu, 450 CE.
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Figure 6. Golden Jackal depiction, made
at the time by the main author, when he
saw this animal near Marathias, in late
summer 1993.
Figure 2. Golden Jackal presence (orange) from the 1940s and afterwards, in 2x2km grid, according
to the collected information. In the 1990s group presence in orange and possible lonely animals in
green. Unconfirmed records from 2000s and 2010s in black dots.
T55P
Figure 1. Location of Corfu Island.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
  • 1842: A pictorial hand-book of modern geography
    • G H Bohn
    •Bohn, G.H. 1842: A pictorial hand-book of modern geography, on a popular plan compiled from the best authorities, English and foreign and completed to the present time.
  • Conservation Action Plan for the golden jackal Canis aureus L
    • G Giannatos
    •Giannatos, G. 2004: Conservation Action Plan for the golden jackal Canis aureus L. in Geece. WWF.
  • Πληθυσμιακή κατάσταση και στοιχεία οικολογίας του τσακαλιού (Canis aureus L.) στην
    • Γ Γιαννάτος
    •Γιαννάτος, Γ. 2014: Πληθυσμιακή κατάσταση και στοιχεία οικολογίας του τσακαλιού (Canis aureus L.) στην Ελλάδα. Διδακτορική Διατριβή. Ε.Κ.Π.Α..
  • Homeless mammals from the Ionian and Aegean islands
    • M Masseti
    •Masseti, M. 2010: Homeless mammals from the Ionian and Aegean islands. Bonn zoological Bulletin 57(2): 367-373.
  • 1822: Le nove muse di Erodoto Alicarnasseo. •Niethammer, J. 1962: Die säugetiere von Korfu
    • A Mustoxidi
    •Mustoxidi, A. 1822: Le nove muse di Erodoto Alicarnasseo. •Niethammer, J. 1962: Die säugetiere von Korfu. Bonn. Zool. Beitz.: 1-49.