Track and sign quiz
To celebrate Bushwise Trainer Pioneer Moyo winning the track and sign category at this year’s Safari Guide of the Year competition, we wanted to share a fun quiz featuring tracks of African animals.
The species in this quiz are found in the South African lowveld, where Bushwise campuses are based. Take a minute to look at the image and read the options. Then scroll down, where we’ll explain why it is what it is, and how you might distinguish it from something similar!
Remember, track and sign is all about interpreting marks left behind by animals. No two tracks are ever identical, that’s what makes this both an art and a science! So how well do you know your tracks? Let’s find out…
1. Who left this track?
Start with the toes – there are four visible and spaced evenly. The claws are close to the toes and the intermediate pad is divided in three, with two additional pads below. This picture actually shows two tracks, one atop the other. This is a porcupine track. Check out this video to see how to distinguish it from a honey badger track.
2. Who left this track?
See the ruler on the right? This is a biiiig track! So that rules out a lot of things. Even in the mud with some smearing, you can make out three toes – one on top and one on each of the left and right sides. This is a white rhino track. A hippo has four toes, and an elephant track shows as a round or oval shape, with no distinct toes (you may see toenails however).
3. Who left this track?
Someone left their ruler at home on this day! Our options indicate that this is a cat. It’s a bit hard to see (not all tracks are going to be perfect) but there are no claws present – even in the soft substrate, so it’s not a cheetah (cheetahs have non-retractable claws). The size of the track indicates either a leopard or a small lion. The hint is that this set of tracks was alone, so it wasn’t a young lion in a pride – it was a leopard. Learn more about leopards here.
4. Who left this track?
Some variety in your answer options here! These tracks were found in a riverbed. You can just make out what looks like a drag mark between the prints – this was the result of the animal’s body lying low and dragging along the sand. The round shape of the track plus the small claws indicate that this is a terrapin.
5. Who left this track?
An oddly human-looking track, isn’t it? If you turn your head to the side, you’ll notice what looks just like a thumb print sticking out to the left, away from the ruler. Baboons and vervets, both Old World monkeys, have tracks that look oddly human. The size of this track means it’s a vervet monkey. More specifically, it’s a vervet’s right hind foot.
6. Who left this track?
Claws claws claws! At least that’s certainly the first thing that jumps out in this picture. See how the soil is both wet and dry? This photo was taken in a riverbed. A leopard would have to stretch its claws out and scratch at the ground to make something like this, but it is not a leopard. The size of the tracks (see the ruler) mean they’re too small to be a crocodile. This is a Nile (or water) monitor.
7. Who left this track?
For the last question of the quiz, we saved the cutest little tracks for last. Coming in at less than half a centimetre long, these tracks are too adorable. In fact it’s rare to see such small tracks as you need specific, soft substrate to record them. Too small even for a dwarf mongoose, these belong to a pygmy mouse.
How many did you get right?
If you’re anything like our Bushwise students, you’ll find that even a taste of track and sign leaves you wanting more. The best solution? Join a wildlife course in the South African bush! Here you’ll train with experts like Colin Patrick Training, or Pioneer Moyo, and enter the incredible world of animal track and sign. Apply today.
Feature image by Armadillo Media