This week saw us hosting the third Cybertracker track and sign course here at Bushwise, hosted by expert tracker, Colin Patrick. As much as students often think that tracking is easy, with someone like Colin, you will very quickly learn that it involves more than just finding and identifying a few tracks. One of the best things about the tracking course, is not only do you learn loads about tracks, but it teaches us to look and think outside the box! Once you can start looking outside the box, you can start forming stories in your mind as to what had happened in a certain area. One good example of this was one of Ground Hornbills, a bird not often encountered on our side of the reserve! This was different though, as the one male that we do occasionally see, had a companion with him! But back to the tracks, you could see where they had been walking, turned around as they heard the vehicles approaching, and at first walked, then hopped away, building speed, jumped, and no more tracks as they took to the sky! Beautiful! This was quite easy to interpret, as students were able to see the scene as it happened, but after a bit of practice, you should be able to put the picture together using only the tracks provided.
Yesterday afternoon involved another interesting exercise – identifying what happened at a ‘poaching rest spot’. Colin and a few of the trainers set up an area with certain tell-tale signs of poaching activity. The students had the task of identifying if they were indeed poachers, who they were, what weapons they were carrying, what they did on their stop and what direction they continued onto. The details even went so far as to identifying that some of the ‘poachers’ were left-handed, well-off or married! All from tracks and a casing, sweet and energy bar wrapper! After almost a week of the tracking course, students were able to accurately identify the weapons the poachers were carrying (a rifle – from an imprint of a rifle stock, a panga and an axe, as well as a knife on one of the ‘poachers’ belts), what the poachers had done on their rest stop and that they had drank a coke and some bottles of water! Well done students and respect to the anti-poaching units out there, they have a tough job!
The Cybertracker course is not primarily aimed at obtaining levels in tracking, as long as you learn as much as you can, the qualification at the end of the week is only a bonus! The evaluation is quite simple, Colin will ask a number of different tracks and signs, learners must then write the answer down and present it to him, and repeated for about a day and a half! Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well not quite, if you take into consideration that questions include not only tracks, but also dung, scrape marks, scent marks, bird tracks, insect tracks etc.
All in all, its been a fantastic week out on the reserve, with many interesting creatures being identified and lots and lots of new information learnt! Students in the past have done really well with their assessments, and we have no doubt that our current students will follow in that same path. Evaluations will commence this afternoon and finish tomorrow evening, so good luck students, and staff who will be assessed! Remember to think outside the box, and trust your instincts! If you would like to follow the outcomes of the evaluations, keep an eye on the Bushwise facebook page for all the updates and some photos!
Till next time
Charles and the Bushwise team!