The growth of hi-tech tracking
Tracking is a skill that demands knowledge, commitment and time. But technology offers new methods.
At the very basic level of technology, there is radio, and many safari companies rely on it to do the tracking job for them. Christophe Bettany, owner of a Selous resort, explains: “All the guides are on the same wavelength, so they are all sharing information. That is when you end up with a lot of vehicles in one place around a lion, for example. There is not much actual tracking done at all.” The downside is that universal wavelength is accessible to poachers, too, so some areas have installed closed networks.
Gathering data through GPS and telemetry has been a boon to science and research. It enables monitoring of movement, especially significant for those wanting to witness migrating herds. Once this information is shared, it’s possible to track animals without leaving your lodge (or even the country) – or ensure that you are in the right place at the right time. However, there are concerns that fitting animals with transmitters can cause injury or affect their breeding ability.
Those wanting to use drones to achieve a closer, aerial scan of an area in order to track and photograph animals, may be disappointed. Many reserves, such as the Selous, now ban them because of evidence that the noise causes stress and panic, driving wildlife away from the area, which, it could be argued, defeats the very point of a safari.
An African wildcat is fitted with a radio transmitter to enable tracking.