EcoTracker Course: Animal tracks and tracking
EcoTracker offers you the ultimate wilderness immersion. Through the ancient art and science of animal tracking – possibly the world’s oldest – you will connect with the iconic places and wildlife of Africa on foot.
WHY DO THE COURSE?
Our seven- and 14-day courses take place in remote wilderness areas of Botswana and South Africa. EcoTracker will engross you in all aspects of tracking wild animals: track and sign identification, trailing and survival techniques of wildlife. The courses are mostly hosted by engaging and expert Shangaan trackers.
In many parts of Africa, the ancient survival skills of tracking wild animals have disappeared at an alarming rate – alarming because without these skills, humanity’s connection to the Earth is significantly reduced. The time-worn skills of animal tracking taught human beings to live consciously with an appreciation and respect for the natural world. With urbanization and technology, much of this profound ecological intelligence is being lost at a time when it is most important to our long-term survival.
EcoTracker aims to contribute to the preservation of indigenous wilderness skills and the conservation of the Earth’s last wild places. Our instructors are certified by the acclaimed Tracker Academy – the first and only accredited tracker training school in South Africa. Visitors to EcoTracker will get a taste of this knowledge from Shangaan trackers who have dedicated themselves to mastering the skills of traditional hunter-gatherers.
WHAT IS TRACKING?
There are two major aspects to tracking of wildlife – track and sign interpretation, and trailing (following animal trails). EcoTracker includes hunter-gatherer techniques as part of the course. All aspects of tracking take years to master.
Track and sign interpretation – this component of animal tracking looks at the signs left by invertebrates, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. All learning takes place in the field using field guides, photographs and presentations to supplement practical training.
Trailing – this component involves following tracks to find the animal. Mastering trailing takes years, and this aspect of the course requires a relatively high level of fitness and an ability to focus mentally. EcoTracker’s instructors are among the best animal trailers in South Africa, and we pride ourselves on our ability to teach this complex skill.
Students will have the opportunity to practice trailing wild animals themselves – under the watchful eye of an EcoTracker instructor. Interpreting mammal and bird alarm calls, animal behavior and assessing the age of tracks form part of the trailing skill set.
Hunter-gatherer techniques – Southern Africa’s indigenous peoples survived off the land for centuries. EcoTracker’s instructors will teach you how to build traps using only natural materials, show you how to find birds’ nests, water and edible fruits. Through sharing of their experiences growing up in the wilderness, the instructors will immerse students in the wild.
This course is designed to give the student a basic understanding of track and sign interpretation. The assessment at the end of the course is endorsed by FGASA for those who wish to try and achieve certification. Depending on the seasonal movement of animals in the area, students may be afforded the opportunity to follow or trail animals on foot.
The longer course gives students the opportunity for a more comprehensive understanding of track and sign interpretation, trailing and hunter-gatherer techniques. The core focus of this course is to spend time trailing animals such as rhino, elephant, buffalo and lion on foot (often dependent on seasonal animal movements). At the end of the course, students can choose to do a fully accredited FGASA trailing and track and sign course.
The course will begin with the track and sign interpretation component, where trainers will teach you how to correctly analyze an animal’s track. Visual presentations, using photographs and illustrations, are also employed to assist with the learning process.
The second component of the course deals with the ability to follow or “trail” an animal’s track, until the tracker finds it. Trailing skills are more complex, and therefore take much longer, to master.
Learners will get to experience the trailing skills first-hand from our Shangaan trainers, who are some of the top trackers in South Africa. Once comfortable the learners will have the opportunity to practice trailing an animal themselves, under the tutelage of the trainers.