BENGALURU:  The widespread demand for ‘illusionary horns’ of the golden jackal as a talisman for bringing luck, increasing wealth, property, magic, sorcery and witchcraft has led to rampant killings of this lesser known species. 

A new study reveals that between 2013-19, seizures of jackal parts has increased. It includes 126 skins and over 379 horns, eight tails and 16 skulls. The illegal wildlife market, more often online now, also threatens rare and common species like leopards, pangolins, musk deer, monitor lizard, snakes and owls.

The demand for these horns which are nothing but a bony and furry half-inch long outgrowth on the skull, is primarily driven by extensive online endorsements and unsubstantiated claims made by religious practitioners in South Asia. The head, skin, tail and teeth of jackals find wide use in traditional practices of Southern India.

This carnivorous species, which has not evoked much interest or protection, is found in grasslands, scrubland, and even in semi-urban and rural landscapes of Koppal, Ballari, Hubballi, Chamrajnagar and other districts.

In this study, scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India, ATREE and NCBS, Bengaluru, Wildlife Conservation Trust,  University of Florida and James Cook University and Conservation Initiatives reveal that jackal trade is largely driven by superstitious beliefs and sorcery. They say, “Golden jackals are relentlessly hunted to serve a pervasive illegal trade of their illusory ‘jackal horns’ in many states.  

Further, the use of horns in religious practices has led to many online domestic and international markets. Since wildlife crimes has mostly focused on large and iconic species, jackals have become a large part of illegal trading and hardly receives any conservation attention.” The analysis also shows there is widespread demand for a talisman derived from the skull, known as jackal horns, which is called “narikombu” in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu, and “siyar singhi” in Hindi. Co-author Arjun Srivathsa says, “Many aspects of trading like demand and supply chains remain unknown and so, require further investigations and research.”

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