Some animal tracks are easier to identify than others. In a previous PeaceParks.TV episode, we showed you how to identify tiny squirrel tracks that are only recognisable to the trained eye. Although you might pass them by, adult elephant tracks, which range from 50 to 59 cm in length, are a little bit easier to identify compared to tiny squirrel tracks!
Animal tracking and identifying animal tracks are ancient art forms that have been passed down from generation to generation. As human development has moved along a trajectory of agriculture and urbanisation, animal tracking is diminishing as a part of indigenous culture. However, run under the auspices of the Peace Parks Foundation, the Tracker Academy of the SA College for Tourism is keeping this tradition alive.
The Tracker Academy, which was launched in 2010, provides training in the traditional skills of animal tracking to people largely from disadvantaged backgrounds in rural areas. Students graduate from their courses with recognised accreditations, which opens up employment opportunities for them at private lodges, nature reserves, and national parks across southern Africa as trackers and field guides.
In this video, Tracker Academy students follow elephant tracks that lead them to a herd of over eight elephants. They would have had to have been paying close attention to the details of the elephant tracks to know which direction they were travelling in, which can be judged by a scuff mark created by their hoofed toes at the front of the track. Students are also taught to keep a keen ear out while tracking elephants, as the sound of distant cracking branches can give a hint of their location.
Now that they’ve found them, the students will be keeping an especially close eye on the behaviour and mood of the elephants, ensuring they respect them and give them the space they need, as there is a young calf in the herd that is being guarded and protected.
Have you ever experienced animal tracking? Share your experiences in the comments below, and subscribe to the PeaceParks.TV newsletter for more Animal Action videos!