Se7en Learns About Tracking With Struik Nature…

We recently attended the launch of Struik Nature’s new book, The Tracker Manuel by Alex van den Heever, Renias Mhlongo and Karel Benadie…

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A lot of our hikes take us down the coast to Cape Point and one thing you need to know about hiking at Cape Point is that it is very easy to quickly get off the beaten track and walk along pristine beaches… where tracks and tracking are crystal clear and easy to spot.

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Wide open beaches are filled with treasures: all the bird life, even the biggest birds like ostriches are there, and then buck, small mammals and reptiles. The tracks that stay undisturbed for even longer are on the actual dunes. These photographs tell a much bigger story than, “A few animals were passing by.”

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Recently on a hike we decided to make a plaster cast of a hoof print… plaster casts are in almost every nature study book and they look so easy. But we have never made them before… turns out it really is a fun and easy project to intrigue hikers of all ages!!!

How to Create a Plaster Cast


I just added a packet of plaster of paris to my pack, that I got from a local chemist shop, and remembered to take a cup from the recycling, to mix the plaster in, in my pack. When we found a suitable print we stopped for a snack. Before we snacked we mixed the plaster of paris in the cup…

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And carefully poured it into the print…

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And left the plaster of paris to set while we ate our snack and had a bit of a break…

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Once the plaster was set we lifted the print out of the ground…

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A quick dusting off of the excess sand and you are left with a fabulous print to store on the nature shelf.

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The Launch of the Tracker Manual

The book is the accumulation of years of data, and the collective knowledge of three of South Africa’s foremost trackers. The idea of the book was to gather together a comprehensive guide for tracking students at The Tracker Academy, and a chance to document a guide to the ancient art of tracking. What an incredible book… before reading this book we thought tracking was all about tracks… footprints left by animals in the wild. That is not the case. Tracking is all about every mark and trace that the animal leaves in its day to day life. Being a tracker means being able to recognise the signs around them, but also to follow and trace an animal.

The book has a wide variety of animal species in it: carnivores, large mammals, antelopes, small mammals, primates, hares and rodents, amphibians and reptiles, birds and insects. Each animal is described in detail, their habits are explained, what they feed on, their droppings, their behaviour, male and female tracks, foreleg and handle tracks, what animals they are similar to, the list goes on. There are loads of photographs and where photographs won’t do, there are illustrations by Simon Bannister. The depth of information on each and every animal in the book is unprecedented… this is a book for animal lovers, especially those that would like to know more about a variety of animals… from lions to ants there is a heap of information on all of them. This book is an incredible read, the ultimate wildlife handbook and one well worth having in your back pack when you are heading out on an adventure.

Let’s Meet the Authors

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Years and years of accumulated experience, teamed up to create this book…

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Alex van den Heever: Founder of the tracker academy, who began this book as a manual for his students and it turned into a detailed labour of love. His passion for his subject, his love of his students and his attention to detail makes this a book one of the best ever wildlife books.

Renias Mhlongo: Born and grew up in the Kruger National Park, and can this man tell wonderful tales of his adventures out in the veld. He told a story of a lion that visited his village and how one of the locals dashed out to protect his cows in his gumboots, while the whole village stood laughing from a safe distance.

Karel Benadie: Was born on a day when it snowed in the Karoo. He is one of South Africa’s 21 icons… and you should watch his interesting story here:

The Tracker Academy

All the royalties from the book go towards the Tracker Academy, where the authors are from. The Tracker Academy was founded in 2010 and is a school to learn the art of tracking, located in the heart of South African Wildlife.

Every year, from 300 applications, 16 rural students are given a year of intensive wildlife training… how to interpret what they see and how to guide visitors through the veld, medicinal plants and as well. All of the students are placed in jobs once they graduate, jobs in research, tourism, anti-poaching and such like. Modern conservation efforts require the ancient art of trackers and so by training these young students in tracking skills not only are they preserving this ancient art but they are aiding research and environmental efforts.

We would like to thank the publishers Struik Nature and Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with a copy of the book to review. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed in it are as usual, entirely our own.

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