For many visitors to the bush, the art of tracking and following an animal is both mystical and fascinating to experience. One of the oldest known art forms, tracking is as ancient as man itself yet today it is a diminishing aspect of indigenous culture which is being kept alive by the Tracker Academy. In this series of posts, sponsored by the Tracker Academy, we aim to help you understand how to identify and follow tracks when you are on your next safari. Of course, there is no substitute for experience and so we encourage you to come and visit us at Londolozi and spend time with our trackers who have over 120 years of experience combined…
- Large round (front feet) and oval (hind feet) tracks with a random pattern of cracks underneath the sole of the foot, similar to rhino in respect to these unique patterns.
- Tracks measure from 50cm to 59cm in length for an adult.
- Although they cannot easily be seen, the elephant has five hoofed toes on the front foot, and four toes on the hind foot.
- The back of the track (heel) often appears smooth. If the elephant walks on slightly sandy soils one can easily see this flattened, smooth area in the track, which at a quick glance can give a tracker an idea of the direction of movement.
- To tell the direction of an elephant’s track can be tricky in hard soil – the other helpful sign in this regard is the distinctive ‘scuff’ mark created by the hoofed toes at the front of the track.
- The tracker needs to look carefully for these scuff marks otherwise he may end up following the tracks in the wrong direction!
- When tracking the bulls one must be mindful of those in musth (a condition of increased levels of testosterone associated with breeding, characterised by aggressive behaviour) – here one can often see the secretions from the penis dribbling on the ground, and making its appearance amongst the tracks.
- Elephants, particularly bulls, will drag their trunks on the ground over short distances. These marks show up as 10 – 12cm in width, dragged in a serpentine ‘S-shaped’ pattern.
- Elephants also dig holes for water in riverbeds. By swinging their front foot shallow casually, divots dug out in order to gather lose sand (dust) to throw on their bodies and behind their ears.
- A tracker’s sense of hearing is most important when following elephants. The cracking sound of branches breaking in the distance is very common whilst tracking elephants on foot.
Filed under Tracking
Wow! After reading your article, I auctually think I am ready go out into the Bush and follow an elephant herd. I don’t want to tpo hunt them, but maybe follow as a naturalist…