Will The Netherlands add a 72nd mammal species? At the end of February 2016 images from a camera trap observed the presence of a golden jackal for the first time in The Netherlands. And on the Veluwe of all places, almost on the doorstep of the Royal Burgers' Zoo! Our Park is the only Zoo in The Netherlands with this species, but the animal strolling through the forest was indeed a real wild golden jackal!
Golden jackals are dog-like predators varying in size between a fox and a wolf. Although their name indicates that they belong to the jackals, genetically it was recently established that they are more closely related to the coyote and the wolf than to the jackal. Of old golden jackals lived in an enormously expanded area in Northern Africa, South Asia, on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Balkan. They were found in the most varying habitats, such as the Savannah, semi-desserts and open wooded landscapes. Only in the last few decades the opportunistic golden jackal has been on the go!
Different from the European wolf, which had been exterminated by humans in large parts of Europe and is only now slowly returning to parts of its former range, the golden jackal is a real newcomer. In the nineteen eighties it was already regularly seen in Austria and in Italy. In the summer of 2015 it had reached Frankfurt. And now, for the first time in history, the animal has been observed in The Netherlands!
'Whomever is strolling in nature these days should not only be aware of wolves, but also jackals', writes "Vereniging het Edelhert' [Red Deer Society] on its website. However, people nor red deer have to be afraid of the golden jackal, which primarily hunts rabbits, rodents and birds and furthermore also likes fruits and berries. Nowadays a discussion on how to deal with invasive, exotic species that apparently relocate outside their natural range and thus possibly displace other species, is ongoing at the European politics level. Normally this concerns species that have been released by humans, such as the ring-necked parakeet in the Randstad, for example. However, the golden jackal came under its own steam; and who knows, it may come more frequently and perhaps ultimately it will stay permanently? The past few weeks it has been quiet about the golden jackals on the Veluwe; but who knows how long that will last!
There are two golden jackals at Burgers' Zoo, a couple that was born in German zoos five years ago. Regretfully these two animals have not had any offspring yet. If you really want to see a family of golden jackals and you do not want to wait until the species actually relocates to the Veluwe, it would be best to travel to the German Naturezoo Rheine. There a family of golden jackals shares their quarters with the labiated bears. However, even at a zoo patience is needed to really see this species sometimes..... jackals just love to hide in the bushes. Only then it becomes clear how difficult it will be to ever see this predator in nature in The Netherlands!