How would you react if you came across a startled Rock Monitor lizard, thrashing its heavy-set tail around and brandishing its white throat and sharp teeth? Understanding animal behaviour, minimising disruption, and respecting wildlife are crucial elements of the training that students at the SA College for Tourism’s Tracker Academy receive.

The Tracker Academy, which was launched in 2010, is a division of the SA College for Tourism, a non-profit organisation run under the auspices of the Peace Parks Foundation. It provides training in the traditional skills of wildlife 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.

The Tracker Academy teaches students how to read and interpret tracks and signs from nature and wildlife. The training takes place at various private game reserves in South Africa, with the first six-month semester of the Skills Development Tracker Training Programme conducted at Samara Private Game Reserve in the Karoo, 45 km from Graaff-Reinet, in the semi-desert biome.

PeaceParks.TV received this clip of a distressed and defensive female Rock Monitor from Walter Shikwalakwala at Samara while out doing practical field observations. Rock monitors usually avoid confrontation and are quick to run away, but when startled or cornered, they can get aggressive, displaying their characteristic white throats and lash-and-whip with their heavy-set tails.

This is an important, unexpected wildlife confrontation for Walter and his Tracker Academy peers to experience. It provides important lessons for understanding animal behaviour in their natural habitats so that they can protect future guests they may guide and also minimise the disturbance of wild animals.

Subscribe to the PeaceParks.TV newsletter for more insightful content featuring the fascinating behaviour of southern Africa’s diverse wildlife and how guides and trackers are trained to handle wildlife confrontations at the SA College for Tourism’s Tracker Academy.