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The Sleepless Sentinel

Field Rat population may decrease crop production
Vanishing Jackals from rural landscape

Samik Gupta, NINB, Kolkata: Increasing human requirements and many other socio-economic features of present era have put the Jackal population in a precarious situation as they are fading fast from the rural landscape. Jackals are being considered as good rodent controller chiefly followed by Fox and Russell’s viper, a snake species. From experience, it can be assumed that there was more than 150,000 Jackal population in rural Bengal, on an average of 4/6 jackals per village X 30,000 villages approximately. Collectively that Jackal population can consume 120,000 field rats per day. It calculates some 4.38 crores (43.8 million) in a year. On the other hand, rat is a fast growing rodent. Usually a single female give birth more than 50 off-springs each year. The young become reproductive within 10-12 weeks. Some 4.38 crores field rats destroy more than 5 tons crop each year approximately. There is no magic wand to control those fast growing rodent without the use of harmful pesticides, which is naturally controlled by the Jackals. Thus, Jackals directly contribute to national GDP and save us from food scarcity.

The golden jackal, Canis aurious is an opportunistic feeder with a diet consists 54% animal food and 46% plant food. They are very capable hunters of small to medium sized prey such as rabbits, rodents (Rat mainly), birds, insects and fishes. Rodents are the most common food type in scats throughout the year. The occurrence of burrowing rats in scats peaks seasonally, these rats are most concentrated in ripening cereals, suggesting that jackals are beneficial for rat control.

This monogamous species inhabits predominantly in dry savannas, deserts and arid grasslands. But it also inhabits the human dominated landscape. As masters of unique adaptive flexibility some of these animals have until now managed to survive in the face of growing urban pressure. Civets have made the ruined, dilapidated houses and hydrants their safest retreat. Jackals still hold on to the fast vanishing green patches, scattered across the state. Even twenty to thirty years ago jackals were literally everywhere in around West Bengal. Over the years as the human population grew they were persecuted and their habitat encroached. They were pushed to the periphery. Now as the cities expand, they have nowhere to retreat but like many other wild species have to die out. The problem of ‘vanishing Jackals’ should be pondered and act right now, before it is too late!