This is a picture of a black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) attacking a young adult male African lion (Panthera leo) in broad daylight. Both lions and jackals typically drink from waterholes at night, so it is uncommon to see them both at the waterhole during the day. While sometimes we see jackals harassing larger carnivores such as brown and spotted hyaena, we have never seen, and can find no records of, a jackal being so obviously aggressive towards a lion. Being predominantly scavengers, jackals tend to be very cautious in their approach to potentially dangerous encounters, and are much more likely to flee from than fight with other predators.
Information for the sequence
This image obviously prompts a ‘what happened next?’ question. When we configure our camera traps, we set them to take a rapid sequence of images after the initial trigger – typically 10 images spaced 1 (or 3) seconds apart. In this instance the image here was number 5 in that sequence, so we have images from the same camera trap before and after the attack – the jackal initially tries to bite the lion’s rear leg, turns away and then launches himself at the lion’s throat. The lion appears to be completely surprised and hardly defends himself (see the full sequence of 10 images). Images taken from a different camera trap on the other side of the waterhole, also show the jackal subsequently jumping at the lion from the other side! After that they move apart and there seems to be no further interaction (see the sequence of images below).
Image Location: Ongarangombe Waterhole, Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia
Image Date: 10th September 2010, 16:34, Late Afternoon (sunset approx. 19h00), Late Dry Season (rains started 15th Nov)
Equipment: Reconyx HC-500 Camera Trap
Ongava Research Centre wins First place, Runner-up and Highly commended in the BBC Wildlife camera-trap photo competition 2011.
Find out more about the camera-trap competition at: www.discoverwildlife.com