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Our Vision

'Reviving the Ancestral Art of Tracking 

using Current Technologies

for the Benefit of Nature & Traditional Trackers'

In the past, running was essential to our survival. About 2 million years ago, humans’ ancestors practised persistence hunting, which consists of running down prey to exhaustion. The ability to run over long distances may have been crucial to the evolution of our anatomy. Beyond the running performance, persistence hunting also involves the ability to read animal tracks. The most advanced form of tracking implies cognitive thinking and the use of hypothetico-deductive reasoning that may well be the origin of all sciences.

'The art of 


may well be the

origin of science'

The practical application of scientific knowledge has given birth to technology, such as the use of fire, without which humankind would have gone extinct. Paradoxically, science and technology is now a major threat to biodiversity, and therefore, to our own existence. The impact is so important that the world and its ~7.5 billion humans may have actually entered a new human-influenced geological era, the Anthropocene. Are we being hit by the curse of Prometheus? According to Greek Mythology, the Titan Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to the humans. Enraged by his misplaced loyalty, Zeus punished Prometheus by enchaining him to a rock where an eagle would eat his liver for eternity. Was this the price to pay for Prometheus to become the creator of humankind and culture?

Human activities have accelerated biodiversity loss to a level that may be considered the sixth mass extinction. Today’s species extinction rate is 1,000 times the natural background rate and is likely to reach 10,000 times that in the future. This would be the only extinction caused by a single living species – humans. The main drivers are habitat degradation and loss, habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, spread of invasive species, pollution, and global climate change.

African elephants and African buffaloes in a riverbed of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa.

Therefore, it is crucial to monitor animal species in order to assess both their distributions and the status of their populations over space and time. Monitoring enables us to answer the most commonly asked questions about wildlife populations: 

  • How many animals are there?

  • Where are they?

  • What is the trend of their populations?

The answers to these basic questions are fundamental to the achievement of any conservation, research and management objectives linked to wildlife studies.

Using tracks is often considered as a non-invasive, cost- and time-effective way of gaining information about species that are difficult to observe. Modern-day hunter-gatherers such as the San People of southern Africa still practise persistence hunting. Their tracking skills are exceptional in terms of recognising tracks and following trails - the continuous sequence of tracks made by the same individual. Because of these abilities, San trackers were involved in behavioural studies of various large carnivores. Another study showed that a group of four San trackers were 98% correct in interpreting the species, age, sex, individual, and activity from tracks.


In order to reach more practicality and quantification, the ancestral skills of the traditional trackers were slowly substituted by track measurements. Tracks are either measured directly in the field or on their replicates. The recording of tracks from the field usually involves drawings or photographs that are limited to two-dimensions (2D). For more than three decades, tracks were used to monitor tiger populations in India. Regularly, thousands of rangers were sent out across the country to draw or photograph the hind left paw’s tracks of purportedly each and every single tiger. Recorded tracks were then subjectively compared to determine a specific number of individuals. This type of practice has been highly criticised because the variations linked to manipulator bias and substrate were not considered and individual tiger identification was highly subjective.

African lion's tracks in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.


'Tracking is in our genes!'

Despite all of these, we deeply believe that tracking cannot be buried for good due to past misuse in wildlife monitoring. Tracking has excited since long before the emergence of anatomically modern humans. Even more, it may have played a critical role in the evolution of our anatomy and intellect. Tracking is in our genes!

Other studies aimed at objectively identifying individuals using measurements extracted from tracks of species such as cheetahs, mountain lions, snow leopards, tigers, and black and white rhinoceroses. However, all these examples were limited to 2D - therefore lacking the crucial information about depth.

Digital 3D models of an African lion's paw and track. 

Our vision is to use recent advances in three-dimensional (3D) technologies, morphometric and statistical analyses to revive the ancestral art of tracking for the sake of nature conservation and traditional trackers. Unfortunately, tracking is a dying skill because our ‘fight or die’ society has not been shaped to accommodate the fate of the last hunter-gatherer communities. The loss of indigenous knowledge means the loss of unique knowledge about ways of living sustainably. What would be a tougher curse than losing the mechanism that has made us humans? We believe in a synergic interaction between indigenous knowledge - particularly the art of tracking - and modern science. One can benefit from the other, leading to a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.


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