"When there is rain and the sun shines, it is believed that a jackal is getting married." For centuries in Kerala, parents and grandparents have shared such stories of jackals and foxes with their children. The stories have passed from one generation to another. However, we barely hear such tales anymore. The only stories we hear or read are the rare sighting of jackals in the forests of Kerala.
However, now a Kerala based environmental organization, Aranyakam Nature Foundation, is conducting a survey on jackals in Kerala. So why is this survey conducted? Wildlife expert Dr PS Easa has the answer.
“We have so many stories regarding these jackals but, at the same time there is no available information on this animal,” Dr Easa says. He continues, “Surprisingly, we have a feeling that we have a better population of this animal outside the forest where there is not much conservation action.”
He also points out that it is a citizen survey. “This is an online survey. People who have sighted a fox or a jackal can report it by filling the questionnaire. This will give us better information on the presence or absence of the animal and, when the animal found, we can find out the significance of the area such as vegetation and human habitation,” he says.
Dr Easa adds that once the questionnaire is answered, they will look at areas not covered in the survey, and in those areas, the organization will have to use extensive personal contacts. “Currently, there is no plan to visit such areas in person,” he adds.
Dr Easa says although it has been reported in some locations that the animal no longer exists, he is unsure. “However, there are reports that these animals are in plenty in several places. But we don’t even have any information on the distribution of Jackal in Kerala,” he says.
The only way to know about the existence of jackals is when people inform or occasional newspaper reports. “There are many reports written on the increasing number of jackals creating problems. Recently, a news reporter asked me on what basis are the number of jackals is reducing. I said there is no basis as there is information,” Dr Easa says.
He also says that now he is receiving information on jackals even from coastal areas. Therefore, this survey will help the organization find out how many jackals are there in Kerala outside the forest area. “Our interest in on the jackals found outside the forest area. We also welcome information from those who have reported on jackals inside the forest,” he says.
In the past, several articles and reports of foxes and jackals attacks have surfaced. However, Dr Easa says that nobody knows. “People haven’t often said that these attacks are by an anonymous animal as many did not know what bit them. Many speculations have been made and stories have been shared. However, we have done the research and found that it was a pack of wild stray dogs,” he says, adding that such news cannot be confirmed unless the experts go and verify it. Understandably, people often get confused about the attacks as jackals, foxes, wolves, and dogs all belong to the Canid family.
To participate in the survey, please log on to https://aranyakam.org/kurukkan/