Sunday, 4 December 2016

Not a line in the sand

Okay, so you are out on an early morning game drive and perhaps wondering why your safari guide is driving along head down, staring at the ground in front of the vehicle.  No, it's not the after effects of a late night (well probably not), it's a case of reading natures morning newspaper. In other-words looking for fresh tracks that help us to understand what has happened in the bush during the previous night. There is a lot to know in reading the morning newspaper, but some tracks are quite easy to recognise. For example my favourite the leopard. Very simple to identify, a triple lobed back pad and no claws deployed from the front pads.
Okay, Lion are similar, but of-course a lot bigger.
Guide books and teaching aids will show you a line drawing, or photo of a footprint indent in sandy soil, but I find it easier to start with the original; so I've used pictures that I have taken with sedated leopards.
Whenever I have had to catch and release a leopard for research or to relocate, I keep pictures of the foot shape. They often help in identifying the individuals spoor later.
As you can see above the general shape of a leopards spoor is as described, but thereafter each has subtle differences which help identify a particular cat. And thats when tracking steps up a gear.
Written by Will Fox
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