South African conservation scientist Louis Liebenberg (and helped by former University of Cape Town computer scientist Justin Steventon) have developed a software for PDAs that assist Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert from being trackers to being cyber trackers. While most of the Bushmen cannot read or write, they are able to interpret the icons on their PDAs.
The endangered black rhino is in the spotlight again. This time it's to find out how many of these elusive and secretive creatures there are in the Kruger National Park. Black rhinos are seldom seen as they prefer to keep to themselves in thickets and bushy areas where they can browse in peace. A founder population of 90 animals was introduced in the park between the 1970s and 1990 as part of a donation from the then Natal Parks Board.
In a northern California redwood forest, a tracker from Africa leans over a deer track and tells the group that it is less than an hour old. The group then proceeds to follow the trail in an attempt to catch up to and get a glimpse of the animal. The skills practiced by these modern day detectives date from the dawn of humanity. Despite being one of the oldest skills known to mankind, tracking still has many applications, even in today's digital age. Technology has not yet been able to replace the human tracker following a complex trail of signs of passage over the landscape.
Good ideas take on a life of their own, soon spawning a host of others. That's what happened to South African Louis Liebenberg's CyberTracker – a remarkable combination of 21st century technology and hunter-gatherer bushcraft. An anthropologist, Liebenberg spent years roaming the harsh Kalahari Desert with San Bushman hunter gatherers, learning to track wildlife, and became friends with the Xö community from Lone Tree. Chatting round the campfire one night, some of the older hunters said they were worried about the younger generation. They could no longer survive by hunting and gathering and needed jobs. But they had no marketable skills. The only thing they could do – and do really well – was tracking. But they were totally illiterate, so they had no way of selling that skill.