Canis mesomelas


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Canis mesomelas
Species Authority: Schreber, 1775
Common Name/s:
English Black-backed Jackal, Chacal À Chabraque, Silver-backed Jackal

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Loveridge, A.J. & Nel, J.A.J.
Reviewer/s: Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
The Black-backed Jackal is endemic to Africa, found in two separate subpopulations: one in East Africa; and one in southern Africa. The species is generally widespread. Black-backed Jackals are relatively unspecialized canids and well suited for an opportunistic lifestyle in a wide variety of habitats. The species is persecuted for its role as livestock killers and as rabies vectors. However, population control efforts appear largely ineffective and probably only succeed in producing a temporary reduction in local numbers.
2004 Least Concern

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Black-backed Jackal is endemic to Africa. This species has a disjunct distribution range, and is found in two separate populations, one in East Africa, and the other in southern Africa. Ansell (1960) notes that this species is entirely absent from Zambia and it is absent through much of central and equatorial Africa. The disjunct distribution of this species is similar to that of other endemic African species adapted to dry conditions (e.g., Aardwolf Proteles cristatus and Bat-eared Fox Otocyon megalotis). The two Black-backed Jackal ranges are separated by as much as 1,000 km and their discontinuous distribution suggests that regions of dry Acacia bush and savanna, the preferred habitat of this species, once connected south-west Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Fossils of Black-backed Jackals have been found in deposits in South Africa dating to at least two million years ago (Hendey 1974), but fossil remains have never been found north of Ethiopia suggesting that they have always been restricted to sub-Saharan Africa.
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Lesotho; Mozambique; Namibia; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zimbabwe
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Regional estimates of abundance are not available. However, Black-backed Jackals are generally widespread and, in Namibia and South Africa, they are common in protected areas where suitable habitat occurs. They occur in many livestock producing areas, where they are considered vermin, but despite strenuous control measures in many farming areas of southern Africa this species is still relatively abundant.

In the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, Rowe-Rowe (1982) found densities of one jackal/2.5–2.9 km², while J.A.J. Nel et al. (unpubl.) recorded linear densities along the Namib Desert Coast of Namibia that varied from 0.1–0.53 jackal/km² along food-scarce beaches along the Skeleton Coast, to 7.0–9.0/km² at the food-rich seal rookery at Cape Cross, reaching a maximum of 16.0–32.0/km² along the centre of the seal rookery.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Black-backed Jackals are found in a wide variety of habitats including arid coastal desert (Dreyer and Nel 1990), montane grassland (Rowe-Rowe 1982), arid savanna and scrubland (Skinner and Smithers 1990), open savanna (Wyman 1967; Kingdon 1977; Lamprecht 1978; Moehlman 1983; Fuller et al. 1989; Estes 1991), woodland savanna mosaics (Smithers 1971; Loveridge and Macdonald 2002) and farmland. In general, Black-backed Jackals show a preference for open habitats tending to avoid dense vegetation (Pienaar 1969). In KwaZulu-Natal, they are recorded from sea level to more than 3,000 m asl. in the Drakensberg, and in localities receiving more than 2,000 mm of rainfall (Rowe-Rowe 1982, 1992). Where more than one jackal species occur in sympatry the habitat is partitioned. The trend is for Black-backed Jackals to use preferentially either the open grassland (when sympatric with Side-striped Jackal; Loveridge 1999) or wooded savanna (when sympatric with Golden and Side-striped Jackals; Fuller et al. 1989). In western Zimbabwe, habitat partitioning was mediated by aggressive encounters in which Black-backed Jackals displaced Side-striped Jackals from grassland habitats (Loveridge 1999).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Black-backed Jackals are persecuted for their role as livestock killers and as rabies vectors. Population control efforts appear largely ineffective and probably only succeed in producing a temporary reduction in local numbers. There is no significant trade in jackal products, although body parts are used in traditional African medicine.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is not included in the CITES Appendices and has no legal protection outside protected areas. It is known to occur in protected areas throughout its range (see Sillero-Zubiri et al. (2004) for a summary).

Occurrence in captivity
Black-backed Jackals have been maintained in captivity for use in experiments testing rabies vaccine (Bingham et al. 1995).

Gaps in knowledge
A large amount of research focusing on the behaviour and ecology of this species has been undertaken, particularly in the last 25 years. In the last decade, however, the emphasis has generally shifted to the role that the animal plays as a vector of rabies, and as a problem animal. The study of Loveridge (1999) may provide a model for future research, whereby funds and efforts are directed towards better understanding their role, for example, in disease transmission and livestock predation, and ecological, behavioural and other data are gathered concurrently. In many settled areas this species, together with the caracal Caracal caracal, represent the top predators in many ecosystems, yet their roles are poorly understood.
Citation: Loveridge, A.J. & Nel, J.A.J. 2008. Canis mesomelas. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 16 April 2014.
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