“The Art of Tracking may well be the origin of science. After hundreds of thousands of years, traditional tracking skills may soon be lost. Yet tracking can be developed into a new science with far-reaching implications for nature conservation.” – Louis Liebenberg (The Art of Tracking).
Apart from knowledge based on direct observations of animals, trackers gain a detailed understanding of animal behaviour through the interpretation of tracks and signs. In this way much information can be obtained that would otherwise remain unknown, especially on the behaviour of rare or nocturnal animals that are not often seen.
Furthermore, tracks and signs offer information on undisturbed, natural behaviour, while direct observations often influences the animal by the mere presence of the observer. Tracking is therefore a non-invasive method of information gathering, in which potential stress caused to animals can be minimized.
In the growing ecotourism industry trackers play a key role in tracking down animals for game viewing and on wilderness trails. On game viewing drives, trackers greatly enhance the efficiency of finding animals in the time available. On wilderness walks and trails trackers open up a new experience to tourists.
To recognise signs of danger requires a very high level of expertise, and as wilderness trails becomes increasingly popular, these skills will become increasingly important. The expert tracker can not only detect the presence of dangerous animals in the behaviour of other animals, but will also be able to recognise dangerous situations from spoor. For example, the presence of lion cubs may be indicated by the convergence of the spoor of an individual lioness. To develop these skills may require years of practical experience in the bush.
By: Wayne Lubbe – River Lodge Ranger