Tracking elephants on foot

When Antony Collet is leading guests at Tanda Tula Field Camp on a luxury walking safari through the Timbavati, he is constantly tracking animals, listening to his surroundings and literally sniffing the air to make sure he knows what is around him. Tracking is a huge part of his job and in today's blog he will explain the basics on how to track an animal and share what he could tell from some elephant tracks he identified on his last trip.

Tracking is an age-old practice which helped both indigenous bush dwellers and hunters to find animals by using spoor and droppings. Today, tracking is sadly a dying art and the skill of tracking is slowly falling away. However, there are still a few highly qualified trackers passing on their expertise and teaching a new generation how to track.

First steps when tracking:

  • Locate an animal track.         
  • Determine the age of the track.         
  • Determine the pace at which the animal is moving.         
  • Try and look for other specific signs relevant to the animal’s behaviour.         

Finding elephant tracks and identifying them is not exactly difficult, but rather it’s what you can tell about the animals from their tracks that makes it really fascinating. These tracks that Ant came across, and is pictured here showing his guests, tells them a number of things about the animal.

  1. The tracks are over 50 cm in size which means it is a full grown elephant.         
  2. There is only one set of tracks so it is more than likely a lone bull, but there is no sign of secretions on the ground so we assume he is not in musth.         
  3. The round front foot and the back oval foot are placed almost exactly on top of one another which indicates this animal was moving at a very slow pace.         
  4. We can see all the cracks on the underneath of the sole so it is still a fairly fresh track. 
  5. The smooth heel of the track indicates the direction the animal was moving in.

Unfortunately, they did not follow up on these tracks and thus did not find the elephant, but for the guests it was incredible to learn so much from the tracks alone. This is one of the few things that Field Camp allows guests to take the time to engage with. A walking safari is a totally new and amazing experience. On foot, you can learn so much about the smaller things in nature that often Big Five game drives miss.

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