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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Sheedy

Releasing 9 Black-Backed Jackals

Yesterday was a remarkable day. I had the privilege of being part of a mission, where 9 black-backed jackals were moved in to the last stage of their rehabilitation process, a release boma.

Volunteer Ed, and Chris and Jaun from MTPA

The journey of these jackals began 8 months ago, when Deidre, from Wild and Free Wildlife Rehabilitation, received the first 3 pups which she hand raised until they could eat on their own, followed by the other 6 a while later, which came from another rehabilitation center.

But let me back track for a moment, to Deidre’s story. When Deidre moved to the Lowveld five years ago, she realized, that the Lowveld needed a rehabilitation center for injured, sick and misplaced indigenous wildlife, with the nearest wildlife rehab being 200 km’s away at that time.

The wonderful Deidre, with vet, Doc Peet

And with over 15 years experience in indigenous wildlife rehabilitation, she was the perfect person to begin one here, and so Wild and Free began 4 years ago.

She has a permit to rehabilitate and release all wildlife species, except primates.

Deidre is one of the fiercest, bravest, kindest, most admirable woman I’ve ever had the honour of meeting, and her passion for the rescue and rehabilitiation of injured and misplaced wildlife is truly special.

Her motto, “rescue, rehabilitate, and release”, plays a big factor in the operation of her NPO, and has won the respect and the hearts of many. Which is hugely important, for the continuation of Wild and Free, as it relies solely on the donations from the public.

And through my wonderful friends, Tamsyn and Jaun, yesterday I got to see her in action, first hand.

We met up with the team at the petrol station in Hectorspruit, and then drove the windy dirt track through beautiful citrus orchids, until we eventually reached a gorgeous property overlooking the Crocodile River.

Willie Joubert, the owner of the property, has generously made a portion of the land available to Deidre, to keep her rescues on, such as jackals, mongoose, and tortoises.

The Incredible Vet Team

Introductions were made, and then we were briefed on how the day would go. Excitement filled the air.

There was assistance from MTPA (Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency), Chris Hobkirk, Chris Smith (Wildlife vets and their students), and Doc Peet, as well as a handful of volunteers.

The jackals had dug burrows within their enclosure and most of them were in there, which would prove to be a little tricky in trying to tranquillise them. Bearing in mind that they'd had no human interaction since being moved to this enclosure, which is all part of the rehabilitation process.

Putting the jackal in the crate for transport

A few of the guys went in to assist in sedating the jackals, and I must admit they did this incredibly well.

Once asleep, they then carried them out of the enclosure, so the vet team and volunteers could then begin to capture their data.

Everybody on site worked quickly and efficiently, as once the sedation is given, the jackals will usually stay asleep for 45 minutes to an hour. The amount of sedation given goes according to the animal’s weight.

Blood samples were taken for DNA, their weight and measurements were taken, they were micro-chipped, and given their rabies vaccines.

Two stripes were shaved on to the rump of the jackals for female, and one stripe for the males, this was done so that they will be easy to identify on the farm they are moving too.

Deidre explained to me, that the next year would be crucial in monitoring them; to make sure they are thriving in their new home.

I was busy taking photographs and videos, when Chris (from MTPA), came out of the enclosure holding a jackal in his arms, and gently placed it down next to me.

“Can you help?” he said, “he weighs 7.9kgs, tell them when they come around. I need you to watch his breathing,” he pointed to the jackal’s stomach, “and put your hand over the blindfold and apply light pressure. This is “your animal” now, watch him.”

Looking after "my" jackal, monitoring it's breathing

I knelt down beside him, and gently stroked his course fur. This was the closest I’d ever been to a jackal before.

This little animal’s little life existed, because Deidre, and Wild and Free had made it possible, and honestly I can’t explain how inspired I felt in that moment, and also, a little nervous to make sure that “my animal” remained fine :)

The jackals were then carried in to the crates, which were lined with soft grass, and off we went to the release site.

A soft-release enclosure (boma), was built, and enriched (meaning made comfortable for the jackals), just to get used to their surroundings, it won’t be long before they are out and about on their own.

The men then off loaded the crates and carried them over to the enclosure. Everybody waited in anticipation, as the jackals then entered in to their new enclosure.

“Ah, I love this, this makes rehabbing worth it,” I heard Deidre say, her face completely overcome with emotion.

Deidre brought her staff member, Thomas with, who has been the main caretaker of the jackals since they’d arrived, and he was just as overcome with emotion, stating that he would also miss them dearly. But I could see that he was just as pleased that the process had gone so smoothly, and he was proud.

As soon as they were in, we all departed, to give the jackals the space they needed to settle in and explore.

We ended the day at the Buffalo Hotel in Hectorspruit (a first for me, and apparently quite a popular spot for the locals), where we ate a well deserved lunch, and toasted to our successful day, chatting mainly about wildlife and conservation – the things we all love so much, and hold so near and dear to our hearts!

The team (with a few missing)

Wild and Free is doing such great work, and it left me feeling like... I want to do more, I want to help where I can, I want to make a difference.

If you feel the same, after reading this touching story about the jackals, and you’d like to donate, I've added the banking details for Wild and Free below. Every little bit counts :)

Also, feel free to head over to Facebook, and like their page, Wild and Free Wildlife Rehabilitation , to stay up to date with all the little creatures they are rescuing and releasing.


Banking Details:

Wild and Free Wildlife Rehab

First National Bank

Account number: 62667993870

Branch: 250 655


Reference: Name / Company

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coleen du Toit
coleen du Toit

What a beautiful thing to be part of. You are so blessed Danielle. Well done to the team and to Deidre and Thomas. Keep on doing the good you are doing.

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