This was the absolute definition of “right time, right place” – as a jackal mom desperately rescues her pup after an eagle catches it. This sighting played out in the Masai Mara.
“The annual wildebeest migration was at its peak and we were on a morning safari. We had received some info about a leopard and a potential crossing and were headed there. On route, we spotted a jackal mother with a pup in its mouth moving briskly. We stopped at a distance to watch as our guide explained that in all probability this jackal family was moving dens. Initially, we considered watching for a few minutes and moving on. I mean – a river crossing vs jackal with a pup is a no-brainer, right?”
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“After some observation, we noticed that the jackal was on edge. There had been a lot of hyenas in the area as well – and we thought this might have been the reason. The jackal would stop, put the pup down and scan the area every couple hundred meters or so. Usually, jackals are the least bit bothered about safari vehicles and allow a close approach. However, this individual was already looking rather stressed and so we decided to give her some space and observe from a distance.”
Eagle persistently swoops in for jackal pup
“After a while, a Tawny Eagle swooped down and tried to grab the pup from the mother’s jaws. The jackal ducked and avoided the eagle. The eagle landed some distance away and kept watch. Following this, the jackal kept moving forward stopping and scanning around. The eagle would make a few more attempts but each time the jackal would outmanoeuvre it. After a few failed attempts, the eagle finally managed to grab its quarry, the action was fleeting and lasted only a couple of seconds. The eagle grabbed the pup, the jackal lunged after it and the pup was dropped mid-flight!”
“We were thrilled to bits, after encountering such a rare and high-octane interaction. In a very busy Masai Mara packed with cars we were all alone at this sighting.”
“The pup seemed unharmed considering the events. Perhaps the eagle had not managed a secure enough grip. The eagle persisted time and again – with the jackal on the move. It was not successful and finally gave up and flew away. We followed the jackal for a kilometre or so until we saw it reunite with its partner at a new den site. The entire sighting must have been an hour and a bit.”
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“Sometimes it pays to be situationally aware of what nature could possibly throw at us.”
“As for the leopard and the river crossing? The crossing never happened that morning. Of course, we missed the leopard but found another one that same evening. We could have missed this if we had pursued the leopard or the river crossing. In addition, there was this temptation to move in closer and take a crisp shot of the mother with the pup in its mouth. Had we done either of those we would have missed this most amazing piece of interaction!”