Almost half a year has passed and at the moment I am on holiday. Yes – on holiday at home in Germany. It is crazy, but not really surprising, how fast I have settled back in. In the end I have the feeling that I’ve been away for only four weeks, but it was in fact almost 6 months. An unbelievable time lies behind me. In the beginning of January this year I traveled to South Africa to start my one year Professional Field Guide Course. I passed the apprenticeship as a Field Guide and also successfully completed the Trails Guide training. In the end, I can call myself a Basic Birder and a Level 3 Tracker.
Especially the tracking did become a new passion of mine. I love to move around on foot – there is simply nothing better. You experience nature in a totally different way, as if you are moving around in a 4x4 and notice the little things, which tell so much about the bush, far more intense and do not overlook what is actually happening in the bush at that moment. Tracks can tell you stories and that fascinates me the most. At the beginning, there is always the question which animal has left its tracks on the trail. The next step is to find out what the animal was doing, if it was alone and when it has passed the trail. There are many aspects which can help you to interpret the tracks but the most important is to look around at the surroundings and live by the motto: Think outside the box.
White rhinos eat grass and „rip“ it off the ground with their lips. The black rhino does not eat grass; it eats from trees and bushes instead and snaps the little branches of with its lip. It is remarkable, but if you have a closer look at the branches in the rhino dung you can see that they are cut off at a 45° angle. This proofs that a white rhino has passed the trail – no doubt, as the dung and tracks were clearly from a white rhino. The tracks vary in size and shape between both species. Even if they look similar at first, you can tell the difference quickly when having a closer look.
Our group started to discuss how old the dung might be and that it must have been a female white rhino, as the male rhinos settle their dung at so called “Midden”, which is part of their territorial behaviour. I was walking a bit further along the track of the rhino, searching for the perfect track. But some tracks did look different from the others, much smaller. A second rhino – a baby! Excellent news! A bit further away there were more tracks. It looked as if somebody pushed something away, next to two small holes in the sand. The little one probably sniffed on the ground and had left marks with its nostrils in the ground. In my mind, I saw them both strolling along the trail. The little one curiously walking around its mother and sticking its nose in the sand. A beautiful thought.
The more time I spend in the bush, the more important it becomes to me to be certain that the animals are around me and that they are all right. Of course, it is always wonderful to actually see the animals and I am always excited about an encounter, but it is not my main priority anymore. Without seeing the animals I can be certain that they are walking around and if we meet, I am even more happy.