Helicopter pilot by day, field guide by night. Hannes van Wyk, Peace Parks Aviation Manager and Chief Pilot, like many of our staff, has mountains of knowledge across many fields.
If you’ve been following Peace Parks TV, you’ll be well familiar with #AskHannes, our go-to hashtag that you can use if you have any burning questions about conservation and life in the bush. Peace Parks Foundation supports projects and programmes across southern Africa, so no matter how obscure your burning questions might be, we’ve got someone who can answer them (if Hannes can’t, which is unlikely!) Although, because many of our staff are so in tune with nature and their surroundings, on Peace Parks TV you’re bound to learn about spoor (tracks) and signs that go unseen by the untrained eye.
In this video, even among tyre tracks on a dirt road, Hannes identifies signs of squirrel activity. He can identify them primarily due to their gait — how animals, including humans, move — which can be seen by the position of the spoor. Squirrels run with their back paws wider than the front pair, and the front and back paws are often close together when they are moving quickly. Even though there are six species of squirrels across southern Africa, only the tree squirrel occurs in Limpopo National Park, where Hannes spots its tracks. As the name suggests, they are arboreal (mostly live in trees), and considering that they are preyed upon by snakes, raptors, mongooses, and more, it’s no wonder they run quickly across exposed jeep tracks!
The Tracker Academy of the SA College for Tourism, run under the auspices of Peace Parks, teaches students how to read and interpret nature, just like this. 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.
Being in touch with and connected to the nature around us drives us at Peace Parks to conserve precious environments for generations to come. It informs our unique, multifaceted approach to re-establish, renew, and preserve large, functional ecosystems that stretch beyond man-made borders. You can start your journey of getting back in touch with nature by subscribing to Peace Parks TV on your favourite social media channel and visiting the Peace Parks Foundation website to find out more about the work we do.