Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Art of Tracking - Make The Nature an Open Book-

fresh Spotted Hyena Spoor -South Africa, Wet Land

I always was interested in the art of tracking, lately I was reading an interesting book called " The Art of Tracking, The Origin of Science" by Louis Liebenberg, a free book that you can download from the library section in the Resources & Forum section in the website - www.explorejordan.c.la - . The book discus the evolution of the hunting methods and the use of Tracking and who it was the way we could develop our thinking toward the modern since.

But I want to share with you here some citation from the introduction of this interesting book.

"According to a popular misconception, nature is "like an open book" to the expert tracker and such an expert needs only enough skill to "read everything that is written in the sand". A more appropriate analogy would be that the expert tracker must be able to "read between the lines". Trackers themselves cannot read everything in the sand. Rather, they must be able to read into the sand. To interpret tracks and signs trackers must project themselves into the position of the animal in order to create a hypothetical explanation of what the animal was doing. Tracking is not strictly empirical, since it also involves the tracker's imagination. Generally speaking, ore may argue that science is not only a product of objective observation of the world through sense perception. It is also a product of the human imagination. A creative hypothesis is not found or discovered in the outside world, it comes from within the human mind.

If the an of tracking is indeed the origin of science, then gaining a better understanding of tracking may help to explain the phenomenal success of science. From an evolutionary point of view, the origin of the creative scientific imagination due to natural selection by nature may explain why it is so successful in nature. If it is assumed that the modern scientific brain has been adapted in part to the necessity of tracking down animals, what limitations, if any, does such a brain place on the modern scientist's understanding of nature? If modern physicists are thinking with a tracker's brain, how does this influence the theories they create in order to explain the fundamentals of nature? This book will not seek to provide full answers to such questions but rather confine itself to a description of tracking itself and its relation to modern science."

"Perhaps an equally important factor in nature conservation is the develop ment of a general awareness of wildlife among the general public. Ignorance by the public at large may well he the most dangerous threat to the survival of many species in the face of "advancement" and "progress". Even keen nature lovers are often unaware of the wealth of animal life around them, simply because most animals are rarely seen. I once encountered a group of about a dozen hikers who walked right over a perfectly clear leopard spoor. Not one of them noticed it, simply because they were not "spoor conscious". To them the leopard simply did not exist. Yet to find a fresh leopard spoor in the wilderness adds an exciting new dimension to hiking. Such a wilderness may appear desolate to the untrained eye, hut if you are at least "spoor conscious·· it will he full of the signs of wildlife. Even if you never see the animals, the knowledge that they are there is enough. By reconstructing their movements from their footprints, you may he able to visualise the animals and in your imagination actually "see" them. In this way a whole story may unfold, a story of what happened when no one was looking."

"Perhaps the most controversial issue relating to the modern application of tracking is that of "trophy" hunting or hunting for "sport"'. In considering the ethics of killing animals. a distinction should he made between killing for self-preservation (for food or in self-defence> which is morally justifiable, and the unnecessary killing of animals (for ""pleasure·· or some other reason) which is morally unacceptable."

"The strongest case that has been made for "trophy" hunting or hunting for "sport" is its economic justification. Controlled hunting as a means of culling can bring in great wealth to a nature reserve (or "game" reserve). "Trophy" hunting can enhance the value of the "game" product well be yond its intrinsic product value and as such can make wildlife utilisation economically more viable than farming. In future, as human population pressures increase, wildlife may have no place in society unless it can jus tify its own existence by providing economic benefits (Thomson, 1986). Economic justification is, however, not the only criterion that should be considered. (The fact that prostitution can be very profitable does not make it morally acceptable.) I personally find it morally objectionable that people should take pleasure in killing animals for "sport". This also raises the ques tion of whether such people would not be inclined to kill animals illegally when no one is looking, especially in remote wilderness areas where it is difficult to control poaching."

"Nevertheless, it must be conceded that some of the most dedicated conser vationists have been, and are, "sport" hunters. In contrast, many "armchair conservationists" who are quick to condemn "sport" hunters do very little, if anything, for conservation, while the luxuries they enjoy are products of industrial processes that are responsible for the exploitation, pollution and destruction of the environment. Furthermore, some private nature re serves owe their very existence to "trophy" hunting, since it would be more profitable otherwise for the landowner to farm the land. I personally feel, however, that it is a rather sad reflection on the morality of modern "civili sation" at large that some private landowners should have no option hut to resort to "trophy" hunting in order to conserve wildlife."

"Many "trophy" hunters argue that it is the skill of the hunt they enjoy, not the killing, and that hunting is a "natural" activity since "man has always been a hunter". When one compares trophy hunting with traditional subsis tence hunting, however, these arguments prove to be fallacies. Compared to hunting with the traditional bow and arro\\, it does not require much skill to shoot an animal with a powerful rifle fitted with a telescopic sight. The only skill involved is the actual tracking down of the quarry, and this is usually done by a hired tracker, not the "trophy" hunter. The attitudes of "trophy" hunters also contrast sharply with those of hunter-gatherers. The very essence of hunting a "trophy" is one of boastfulness. (One need only look at the way they pose alongside their "kills" for photographs.) In con trast, the successful hunter in a hunter-gatherer community was expected to show humility and gentleness (Lee, 1979)."

"Hunter-gatherers were not motivated by destructive impulses or pleasure in killing. On the contrary, there is a considerable body of information about recent hunter-gatherers to demonstrate that they were relatively non aggressive when compared to civilised societies (Fromm, 1973). Studies of the Mbuti, for example, show that hunter-gatherers were in fact very gentle people. The act of hunting was not carried our in an aggressive spirit at all. Owing to the consciousness of depleting natural resources, there was actually a regret at killing life. In some cases, they even felt compassion for the killed animal (Turnbull, 1965)."

It is an interesting subject of discussion :)

Well, I will do my best to help people who are interested in Tracking, indeed I will start an album of tracks and signs in our Facebook group "Explore Jordan" to discuss some of these tracks and signs found in Jordan, and want to ask you to post any picture you take so we share the benefit. Not to forget that soon a specialized courses of Tracking in will be available through the RSCN Nature Academy that under construction.

I believe the art of tracking will be of the great tools that the nature guides in Jordan can use, even the nature lovers because most of the time it is very hard to view the animals but you will be amused of how much you can tell about the wildlife surrounding you in a normal hike!

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