The Art of Tracking
The tracking of wild animals, which was once considered a basic life skill amongst our hunter-gatherer ancestors, is fast becoming a highly specialised profession in today's times and remains a source of livelihood for many individuals employed in the African safari sector.
Not only are trackers vital in improving the overall experience of guests out on a game drive or walk, but their skills are also vital during anti-poaching patrols and assist with researching animal behaviour.
A good tracker is able to glean a wealth of cues from what many of us see as a simple indentation in the sand, or a wisp of fluff on a branch. While out on a game drive or walk, many of the species that we get to observe would go unnoticed if it were not for the skills of an experienced tracker.
The first step when coming across a footprint in the bush is to determine which creature created it. Bird tracks are different and often easier to determine than those left by animals, and the shape of a hoof print differs markedly from that of a paw print. When it comes to hooves, the pony-like tracks of the zebra are easy to recognise, while the many different sharp pointed prints of various antelope require more skill.
Size is a good indicator of which species has passed that way ahead of you; for example, a kudu would leave a large cloven hoof impression while an impala print, sharp and pointed, is only 6 cm long. Cat prints are distinguished from dog paws by the absence of indentations where the toenails have pierced the surface and again, size will determine what kind of predator made the print.
With so many species wandering around in the African bush, it takes many years to become familiar with all the variations, and the appearance of the track is also affected by ground moisture, interference by wind and rain, and how long it has been there.
Interpreting the activity
The distance between footfalls can indicate the speed at which the animal was travelling, whether it was walking, pacing, trotting or running at the time, and the direction in which it was moving. Animal droppings are another common way to track animals and can indicate how long ago a particular animal went by.
While you are out on an organised game walk, or drive, your tracker will be happy to explain all these details to you, and answer any questions, adding value and excitement to your outing.
Don't miss out on the chance to experience a walk on the wild side while on your African Safari.