Incredible footage documented the nail-biting battle between a jackal and a marabou in South Africa’s Pilanesburg National Park.
28-year-old Civil Engineer, Dian Swanepoel, experienced this thrilling sighting at Kubu Dam in the Pilanesburg National Park. “We were on our way out of the park via Bakubung Gate when we decided to make one last stop to view the animals and birds at Kubu dam. I happened to notice that there was a jackal lying flat on the ground in front of us but we were distracted by the filming of the two elephants. In the blink of an eye the jackal began running towards a marabou and went flat out to grab it around the neck.
I was feeling both shocked and amazed at the same time whilst watching this all unfold. I felt terribly sorry for the marabou but a meal is a meal… The jackal toyed around with the marabou and seemed to be super chuffed with himself as his tail was wagging side to side like an excited domestic dog. We hung around for a bit watching the jackal dig in to the feast and hit the road shortly after”.
This was quite an impressive feat for the jackal, who is only about the size of a domestic dog. The marabou, a member of the stork family, is a massive bird with a wingspan of 12 feet. Weighing up to 20 pounds and reaching heights of nearly five feet, these guys are truly colossal.
The birds are quite unique in appearance, with a completely bare head and neck, black back, and a white chest and belly. They also flaunt an enormous bill, a neck ruff, and a pink sac on its throat. Marabou are often referred to as “undertaker birds” due to their appearance from behind. Their cloak-like wings and back, slender legs, and large mass of “hair” bring the grim reaper to mind.
Their bare heads and long neck are adaptations for scavenging on carrion; a head full of feathers is difficult to keep clean when frequently inside a large carcass. When carcasses are unavailable, these birds will eat just about anything else, including garbage, feces, birds, fish, frogs, small reptiles and mammals, and insects.