Ten Sri Lankan jackals (Canis aereus naria) have been killed so far with the assistance of the police to prevent rabies in Milleniya, Horana in the Kalutata distinct, a senior official of the Department of Wildlife Conservation said.
“There was no option but to kill the rabies- infected jackals”, he noted.
“We were very systematic in our approach. We don’t like to kill animals but it was beyond our control and with the Covid-19 spread in most parts of the country, we had to act fast,” the official said.
However, villagers were not given the authority to carry out the task, he said. “Some animals did have natural deaths due to rabies infection.”
When jackals are infected with rabies, they have a tendency to attack people and animals, the official explained. “Otherwise, they are generally very shy, especially when it comes to people.”
The threat is under control now, though there’s an ongoing battle between the villagers and jackals especially at nights and early in the morning, he further said.
The Sri Lanka jackal (Canis aereus naria), a subspecies of the golden jackal, is the country’s only wild canid.
Jackals are widespread hunters and scavengers; thus, animal activists strongly believe any attempt to cull them would lead to ecological imbalances across its range.
An animal activist said the Wildlife Department failed to take timely action to neutralize the threat. “This led to dozens of jackals being killed. We were told villagers in Milleniya are now carrying out frequent attacks”.
Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, according to the World Health Organization. It accounts for nearly 99 per cent of all rabies transmissions to humans globally.
Dog bites account for about 96 per cent of all animal bites in Sri Lanka, while another 2% come through domesticated cats. Wild animals accounted only for two per cent of reported cases.
Reported cases of rabies in different species in Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2014, based on data from the government’s Medical Research Institute (MRI) and the Department of Animal Production and Health, had not included jackals in the list of 18 animals.
The jackals with rabies in Milleniya must have contracted the disease from dogs, an expert says.
Veterinarians will inoculate the dogs in the area, Director of Wildlife at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, University of Peradeniya, Dr. Tharaka Prasad told The Sunday Island.
“We have found dogs with rabies in the area and the jackals must have contracted rabies from them. We are confident the vaccination program could be completed soon. We have ruled out the use of a rabies bait vaccine (a sachet containing a rabies vaccine) for the jackals as it would lead to other complications’, he added.