Zen Jackal – November 2011

Shot of the Month – November 2011

This month we visit with one groovy, chillin canine – a Black-backed Jackal (BBJ) sitting in the sun in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.  Look closely at his face.  His serenity appears sublime.

I have seen many black backed jackals and such moments are rare.  More typically I have seen them, usually two, as they tend to form life-long partnerships, scampering along with great purpose.  No time to spare.  Looking for the next meal.  Perhaps hurrying home to feed the pups.  Other times scampering to avoid danger from a leopard or other predator.  Occasionally a restive jackal, but more often than not — scampering.

BBJ’s are cunning and exceptionally quick.  They can dash in and steal a morsel of food before a dining lion has noticed what happened.  Ok, that is quick, but these guys are QUICK.  Our guide Simon told us about the time he was asked to help sedate a few jackals with a dart so a local scientist could take some measurements.  For this exercise they had to use blow guns to deliver the darts as a rifle would generate too much force on a canine that only weighs about 20 pounds.

Simon loaded the long tube, found his target and fired.  Pfffft.  And the dart was off – faster than anything you or I could see.  The jackal, hearing the sound, looked over and at the last instant, scooted his butt out of the way and seemed to watch the dart as it flew by.  Ok, lucky move.  Reload.


Again, at the last moment, the jackal stepped aside like a matador as the raging-bull dart missed its mark.  (Is he the “One?”)

They never managed to dart a single jackal.

Life on the plains is rarely restive, nor predictable.  Dozens of times over the years I have seen lions feeding at a kill – many of those times BBJs watched from a few feet away, waiting their turn at the scraps.  The lions never seemed to notice, let alone care, except one time in Tanzania a number of years ago.  We watched as the lions finished off a carcass and then sauntered off for a nap.  A BBJ finally moved in for a snack.  To my amazement one of the lions got up and began to stalk the jackal.  The jackal was unaware.  The lion launched his attack, but the jackal, using the above aforementioned quickness, managed to escape.  But boy, was that one annoyed jackal.  He barked up a storm in the direction of that lion, as if some unwritten code had been violated.

Stalking lions.  Dart-zinging humans.  It’s a jungle out there.  When scampering along in your own jungle, remember to seek out Zen moments like the one captured here where you can.

Let’s try.  Oooommmm.  Oooommmm.  That’s right, stop and relax.  Light a candle.  Sit lotus style (if your joints will allow it).  Deep breath.  Clear your mind.  Innnnnhaaaaale.  Exhaaaaaaale.

If you get it right, the only sound you might hear is that of your soul catching its breath.  (I’ll keep my eye on the lion for you…)


Until next month…