The art of tracking is relatively unexplored in this part of the world. It is not a question of skill, but rather that the need has never arisen. Traditionally, packs of hounds were used to assist hunters in the Pantanal, sniffing out the jaguars and chasing them up trees. To the north, in the Amazon Rainforest, I would argue the opposite. Here indigenous people have been utilizing tracking on a day-to-day basis. In their case, tracking would have provided food on the table.
In sending two trackers to Caiman Ecological Refuge, the Tracker Academy is facilitating the teaching of this ancient skill. Everyday Andrea and Richard go out into the swamps shadowed by Nego and Diogo. Every decision that the trackers make is conveyed to the ‘trainee trackers’. Andrea and Richard have been through rigorous training themselves, and both have the aptitude of excellent instructors. Diogo and Nego have been a part of Projeto Onçafari for a while now and the project has instilled its trust in these two local Brazillians, ensuring that they will carry the flame when the South Africans return back to their homeland.
Learning the art of tracking does not happen overnight. It cannot take place behind a desk, or in an air-conditioned office. Learning takes place in the field, out under the sun and in the wild. Already, over the last 4 weeks, these four have spent a massive amount of time walking areas believed to contain jaguars. Whilst they walk, they talk about all things related to the wilderness. Their eyes are stretched open and their senses kick-started. They are taught the skills needed to read all the signs that nature has to offer. All the signs that ultimately lead to the treasure chest of a jaguar!
Andrea and Richard will tell you that it is much more complicated to track a cat here than back home in South Africa. One of the main reasons is the vegetation…it is very difficult to walk quietly. The jaguar hears you coming and moves away before you can see it. Hence, the team has to adjust their walking style to try and work ‘with’ the vegetation. It is wonderful to see the two trackers imparting their knowledge on the local duo, whilst simultaneously learning and adapting to their new environment.
Already we can see the benefits of having the two trackers here. Diogo and Nego are more confident when they walk in the wild, finding it easier to follow a good set of tracks. They are now trying to predict and anticipate the animals next move. On the other side, Andrea and Richard are learning daily and will undoubtedly return to South Africa more rounded people, better trackers and with glorious feathers in their caps.
To learn more about any of the organisations involved in this project click on the links below:
Written, Photographed and Filmed by: Adam Bannister