Traditionally, foxes and jackals are believed to be cunning animals. Due to intensive ravaging of forests, bushes and the rugged condition of soil, almost all the habitats of foxes and jackals in the country have been destroyed entirely.
Moreover, indiscriminate hunting and killing of the animals, lack of food and impact of climate change have already wiped out Jackals from most of the towns and the city areas. Even jackals are rarely found in rural areas nowadays. It is learnt, jackals are a type of canine animals that are related to foxes, dogs, coyotes and wolves. They look like a cross between a German shepherd dog and a fox. They have the fox's small face, delicate legs and fluffy tail, with the German shepherd's long, alert ears. Bangladeshis usually cannot differentiate between a fox and a jackal and believe them to be the same. Usually both foxes and jackals are nocturnal animals but often those are also seen to come out from their hideouts during the day time for hunting.
Domestic chickens, goats and even small babies are the targets of jackals and foxes. So, people thought of them as a menace and developed an enmity with them for the time immemorial. Also, these cunning animals always maintain a safe distance from human beings. When exposed they are chased by men, even trapped and killed.
However, instead of enmity the Custodian of historical Sompur Buddha Vihara popularly known as Paharpur Buddha Vihara Fazlul Karim Arju has developed a relation of friendship and amity with the jackals.
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Situated about five-kilometre away from the Badalgachhi upazila Sadar under Naogaon district, the Sompur Buddha Vihar was an ancient institute of learning. The Vihar site consists of a huge, high brick mound and several hundred brick built small rooms around. A large number of jackals live at the Vihar site. Those jackals survive mainly on leftover food thrown away by visitors. Custodian Fazlul Karim Arju joined as the Custodian of Paharpur Buddha Vihar some two-year ago. Soon, after his joining, he noticed packs of jackals roaming of around the Vihar areas, specially, after the evening. They were seen searching for food leftovers and fight among themselves for possession of the food by Arju.
Fazlul Karim felt the urge to feed those jackals and help them survive as the jackals were going extinct from the country. He started to supply those jackals with foods like loaves of bread and biscuits at night.
When a ban was imposed for the visitors for Corona virus pandemic, the vast areas of Paharpur Buddha Vihar became empty. There was no leftover food from the visitors as well. As a result, several dozens of jackals that live in and around the Paharpur premises started to starve.
Finding the situation dire, Custodian Fazlul Karim with the help of Site Director Sarwar Hossain and some other local people started cooking rice and curry for the starving jackals and serve them. This way, Custodian Fazlul Karim has been serving the jackals' food for nearly two-year.
Every night around 10 pm, dozens of jackals throng in front of the Daak Bunglow (Guest house) of Paharpur and wait for the arrival of their friend Fazlul Karim. When Fazlul Karim arrives there with food, those jackals start to frolic in joy, establishing a bond of friendship between them.
Around 10 pm on last Friday, some 20 to 25 jackals were seen waiting in front of the Dak Bungalow. Soon, Arju arrived there with cooked food and loaves. Seeing Fazlul Karim there, the jackals started to howl in joy. Hearing their call, some more jackals arrived there from their hideouts. When food was served, the jackals started to consume those dancing and made a typical sound of gratefulness while eating them.
Officer-in-Charge of Badalgachhi Police station Atiqul Islam recently visited the Duk Bunglow at night and witnessed how a friendly relationship has grown between the jackals and a human being. He said, “I was greatly charmed by watching the friendship of Arju with the jackals.” Local people informed more than 50 jackals live in and around Paharpur Buddha Vihar.
Custodian Fazlul Karim Arju informed, “Whenever they (Jackals) are hungry, they make sounds at the door of his room. The Paharpur Vihar site and the Museum remain closed for a long time due to the Corona virus pandemic that is why there was no visitor.” “So, those jackals were facing an utter food crisis. But, none of them were kept hungry. Rice, Khichuri were cooked separately for those jackals and loaves were purchased and served. Still, I serve those foods daily. I feel very comfortable serving food for those jackals”, he added.
Site Director of the Vihar Sarwar Hossain informed, jackal is regarded as a ferocious animal but they have never found any symptom of ferocity among those living around the Vihar. He remarked all ferociousness can be overcome with love.