Jackals at the door

The golden jackal has arrived at the Natural History Museum, where it features at the beginning of the climate change exhibition. Meanwhile, it is only a matter of time before the first live jackals trot into Finland either along the Karelian Isthmus or around Lake Ladoga.

– It's even possible for the species to arrive in our country via Sweden, explains PhD Suvi Viranta-Kovanen, who studies the evolutionary history of predatory animals at the University of Helsinki.

The golden jackal is a canid, slightly larger than a fox and similar in appearance to a wolf, and it is already sniffing at Finland’s borders. Estonia has a growing jackal population, and there have been media reports of individual jackals being found in Denmark. 

Jackals have been present in the Balkans since the late 19th century. They are currently quite common in Romania and Bulgaria.

The range of the species in Europe has varied dramatically. In the 1960s, the population was nearly exterminated as pests, but recovered, and its spread towards the west and the north has accelerated from the 1980s onwards. Likely causes for its expansion are the small number of wolves on one hand, and a warming climate on the other.

– Like other canids, the jackal is very adaptable and practically omnivorous. If living close to human habitation, they will commonly scavenge for food in the garbage, Viranta-Kovanen says.

Not introduced, but non-native

Our officials currently lack a strategy for dealing with such immigrants. Will we close the borders, as we are trying to do for boars to stop the spread of African swine fever, or will we welcome the newcomers?

Riku Lumiaro from the Finnish Environment Institute points out that if the jackal arrives in our country, it would not be an introduced species, even though it is not indigenous to Finland.

Introduced species are brought by humans to new areas, while wild non-native species spread of their own accord due to climate change, for example.

– Nevertheless, we can expect some xenophobic conflicts, muses Viranta-Kovanen.

She does point out that the jackal, more similar to the fox in terms of lifestyle and size, would not elicit the same level of fear and unease as the wolf.

Pangolin and small predators introduced to World Nature

In the World Nature exhibition, visitors can see the adorable Chinese pangolin hanging upside-down next to some birds of paradise. The Chinese pangolin is native to south-east Asia and is found in many different types of habitats, from mountains to cultivated areas. This slow-moving creature is critically endangered due to poaching and illegal trade.

The specimen at the Natural History Museum in Helsinki was acquired in a swap with the Malaysian Natural History Museum in 1984.

Two little predators lurk in the sub-tropical area, but you have to peek about to see them. The tufted ears of the caracal can be spied close to the gemsbok and the cheetah, and the common genet, the only viverrid to also spread to Europe, is climbing on the branches of the baobab tree. These creatures were brought to the shores of the Mediterranean as pets from Africa more than 1,000 years ago, and they have since made their home on the Iberian Peninsula.