Just because you don’t see the lions doesn’t mean they aren’t there and that’s why spoor surveys are critical to save predators and other wildlife.
What exactly are spoor surveys? And how can they save lions?
When Russ and I took a tracking course in early 2016 we were astounded at what we saw. Well, actually better said, astounded at what we’d been missing. No sooner had we arrived at the camp when our trainers took us out tracking. We saw no wildlife, but identified 30 different species within a small radius of the camp. The wildlife was there, and the spoors told their stories.
Field Notes from Marnus who saves lions
There are large areas of land in Africa where lions roam free without the protection of the national park status. Animals leave the safety of the parks due to various circumstances: One, they move on to ‘greener pastures’ when the rains come. When the natural prey leaves, so do the lions and other predators. Two, the carrying capacity of predators in a national park reaches it’s peak forcing some to find new homes.
Lions can travel far distances and many would be amazed to see how far they walk a day (or a night) when they are on a mission. This movement can bring lions and other predators in close proximity to humans.
Surprisingly, a large percentage of lions live amongst local communities. The barrier between man and beast becomes almost non-existent. Other species of predators also survive in such a manner. At times one can find more predators outside of national parks than actually within. Determining predator populations requires what one calls Spoor Surveys.
What are Spoor Surveys?
Basically, its finding, identifying, counting, following and analyzing lion and other predator spoors or tracks. As you can imagine, this takes extraordinary expertise, is tedious, time consuming and tremendous hard work.
Why Spoor Surveys are important
Spoor surveys help understand the average population density of a specie(s) within a given area. This provides information about carrying capacity, adequate prey populations and proximity to human settlements.
Individual animals can also be determined from spoor surveys. However, this takes years of knowledge and tracking skills. Enter the SAN folk (Bushmen.) These ancient people are known to be expert trackers and ability to identify individual animals just by looking at their spoor. Their assistance in conducting spoor surveys in Namibia are essential.
How Spoor Surveys are conducted
Each footprint is recorded and given a GPS location. Pre-Selected roads are driven either once within a short time frame, or driven several times over a longer time period to collect the averages. Roads should preferably be separated by a distance larger than what the spoor specie walks daily (this data is collected from other previous studies conducted within a similar vegetation type/topography etc. to avoid duplication or incorrect numbers used.) Simply put, you don’t want to count the same lion twice. Or think you have two when there is only one. That’s where individual animal spoor identification becomes crucial.
Once all the spoor sampling is collected there are several algorithms one can use to eventually get to an average population density of each specie. Collecting this information is important because it provides insight as to sex ratio within each specie, population size/potential growth/comparison between Apex predator ratio and balance etc.
Why Spoor Surveys are life saving
In a nutshell, spoor surveys provide the paint from which one can begin to draw on the canvas. They provide the picture for: One, discussion with farmers and villagers. Two, the basis from which decisions are made to reduce human wildlife conflict. Three, to ultimately reduce the loss of livestock and of course lions and other predators.
As you can see spoor surveys are crucial to help save lions and other predators in Namibia. They are also costly, so your support is very much appreciated.