Es­cape strate­gies: when track­ing goes wrong

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Tracking -

Track­ing an an­i­mal suc­cess­fully is a skill that needs to be equally matched by know­ing how to make a safe re­treat. “The golden rule is: don’t run. Stop, stay still, make eye con­tact, then slowly move away. If you run, you make your­self prey,” says Joseph.

Dan­ger­ous en­coun­ters do oc­cur. Joseph re­calls an ex­pe­di­tion to seek out blackand-white colobus mon­keys, with five guests and a ranger in tow. “I was roam­ing around a tree to see where the mon­keys were hid­ing. I looked up and there was a leop­ard on a branch look­ing down at us. I was very close [about 1.5m]. I saw his eyes first, then he showed me his ca­nine teeth. When the leop­ard shows his ca­nine teeth, it means he is ready for any­thing.” What Joseph did then is per­haps coun­ter­in­tu­itive: “I did not move my head, but made eye con­tact with the leop­ard, while telling the guests to go back slowly.” Joseph clearly won the star­ing com­pe­ti­tion – the leop­ard jumped down and ran away.

The se­cret to a safe es­cape is to learn the warn­ing signs ex­hib­ited by an­i­mals. They are re­versible, so a leop­ard waft­ing its tail may not progress to the next stage if a com­fort­able dis­tance is achieved.

When we fi­nally en­coun­tered our ele­phant, he was hap­pily feed­ing, but the jeep came too close and he pro­gressed to the sec­ond stage of warn­ing. Joseph ex­plained: “When you see the ele­phant’s pe­nis com­ing out, and start­ing to drag down, then he is not com­pletely happy with the dis­tance”. That is the first warn­ing sign. Next, the ele­phant brought his ears out wide – the sec­ond sign. “He is mak­ing him­self look big­ger.” The fi­nal stage, be­fore the charge (and your last chance)

is the trump.

In a stand-off with a leop­ard, don’t panic. Slow and steady move­ments are key.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.