Science

CyberTrackers: Bushmen and Information Technology

Editor: Stephen L. Talbott

"The art of tracking", writes Louis Liebenberg, "may have been the originof science". As a physicist who has spent many years tracking with theBushmen of the Kalahari Desert, Liebenberg speaks with some authority.And there can in any case be little doubt about the remarkableobservational and interpretive skills of expert trackers -- skills thatwould be the envy of many scientists (or, at least, of those relative fewwho still occupy themselves with the appearances of the natural worldrather than with instrument readings and abstractions).

A good trackercan read a detailed public story written upon a littered forest floorwhere the rest of us would see only a chaotic mass of dead leaves. Thebushmen of the Kalahari can identify an individual rhinoceros by examiningthe pattern of cracks in its droppings -- cracks determined by theintestine's distinctive convolutions. And they can make a good guessabout the psychological state of an elephant (are poachers harassing it?)by examining the distribution of the droppings.

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