What do you see…. A simple boot print? I see a story!
Since I was a kid I have been interested in tracking. Animal tracking can be fun, however my guilty pleasure has always been a bit more sinister. As I write this I can almost see Fiona’s eyes rolling, but maybe there is someone else who finds this interesting. So why not.
Looking back, this interest was probably sparked by programs like the Lone Ranger not to mention those terrible jungle war movies that I was drawn to as I kid. What ever the reason was, it stuck. I am not the best tracker in the world nor would I ever claim to be anything other than interested. Do I make mistakes you may ask? Yes I do. But I always learn from them and try hone my interest.
Tracking for me is not some “Rambo” like ambition. It is something that I do whilst out and about. It’s second nature to me now. I have used aspects of it my whole life and to be honest it has never been anything but positive. To me its a great way to learn more about your environment and your surroundings as well as there being new things to learn and experiment with. A few very basic examples are as follows; How long does a print last in the soil and in what type of soil? How much pressure does it take to break what type of branch? Do they break like in the movies or do they just bend?How long does it take a certain spider to spin a new web, when do certain spiders spin webs? Bird language, animal behavior and the list goes on and on. There are so many variables to take into account I cant possibly mention them all. For me tracking is really the study of natural things and people. That being said, I will continue with this story.
We have been having issues with poaching of all types for years, this is nothing new. However I was really horrified to see how bad it has become in my area. It seems that rising unemployment and an overloaded legal system has thrown down the red carpet for certain people.
In my youth, poaching seemed a little more candid. Some guy going around taking a few things he should not. Not really a big deal. He would get a warning, maybe a fine and that would be that. Now it seems to be a fully fledged way of life for some. A very profitable way to make money. A new world market with US dollar prices. These people have no intention of doing anything else. They have been giving our Rangers the run around for some time.
Now when faced with a problem like this I try to put myself in their shoes. See their problems and how would they solve them. In doing so I can see the flaws, patterns and weak links in the chain. The same as tracking any animal.
One thing I do know that humans don’t do anything without motivation. Not even something as simple as going to the loo. We don’t move a muscle without a reason. It turns out that a group is actually taken the initiative. They are actively watching the patrolling Rangers and moving according to their schedule. But that could be their weakness. I will explain.
I started to explore the place were the animals have been repeatedly harvested and worked my way back. Literally in a way that I would not be seen. It was not possible. So they must be doing this in the dark….A vehicle driving in the dark would be noticed…They must be dropped off in the day and walk in at night. I looked at all the places I would hide that would meet the following criteria: Must be a easy drop off point, must be able to walk with a heavy carry load, good cell phone reception, good overview of any roads and Rangers, must be able to hide from Thermal and IR detection and bingo. I found their route, their staging area and collection point. This area has been used repeatedly by multiple people for some time. The poachers were definitely watching the Rangers and acting accordingly. The signs range from a month or more rightq up to 24hours old. The way these individuals were operating was cunning as well as incredibly interesting .
I am not an expert as I mentioned however the signs indicated a minimum of 3 guys excluding the driver. From what I could see they were athletic, aware and motivated. Not forgetting at least one of them has a drug problem. This could mean he could be unpredictable, aggressive or sloppy. However to be honest I was hoping for the latter. As it turns out that night they employed quite an innovative tactic. Multiple people hit a few different areas. This area had a total of 7 operators but this particular spot was the overview point. Three were detained but one of the Rangers had to break off the car chase for the remaining offenders. A second vehicle appeared and tried to force him off the road whilst in pursuit of the first. Things elevated quickly. It is becoming very clear that the steaks are high and people are willing to risk it all in the pursuit of quick cash.
Tracking or situational awareness is beneficial to just about everyone now days, no matter if its for hiking pleasure, a better understanding of our natural world, driving home from work or even being aware with regards to your local neighbourhood watch.
If you find this type of story interesting or you would like to know more about tracking and or situational awareness , please indicate so by commenting or leaving a like. I am happy to share the things I have learnt or noticed with people who are interested.