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Just as you will sit at home in the morning and read or listen to the news, we bush fundi's do the same thing, albeit in a slightly different manner. Tracker Donald Sibuyi will start his morning by saying, "It is time to go read the newspaper". After joining him and his brother Jack on a walk in the bush I finally understood what he was talking about. The dusty scars through the landscape of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve are much more than your average dirt road, and the wild inhabitants are unknowingly doing much more than going about their instinctive business as usual. In their own right, the animals of the bush are carefully crafted journalists, each with their own specific writing skills to set them apart from the rest. Donald and Jack, along with all the other Trackers and Rangers at Ulusaba, are experts at interpreting these 'journalists' tales. Carefully constructed clues in the sand depict a story unlike any you have ever read or seen before. It is the beauty of being able to read between the lines and distinguish each of these animals by the 'stories' they have written that draws a person into the bush. Perhaps the art of tracking sparks a dormant instinctive behaviour inside of us that our forefathers once used to survive.
Having always loved spending time in the bush as a youngster it became fairly easy to spot the odd footprint in the sand or recognize the familiar scent of buffalo or elephant, but watching a tracker at work is something to behold. All I have been doing is skimming through the headlines in the hope of catching a glimpse of what may have carved a pathway across the beaten track. A qualified tracker is a critic of the bush news - taking into account the 'publication' date, and exactly what the 'journalist' had in mind. Following an animal on telltale signs, such as mud brushed off onto a leaf or flattened grass - indicating direction - is where one finally starts to read beyond the headlines. However, in my personal opinion, it is the ability to interpret the fine print that really separates the 'men from the boys' . A slightly off marked hoof print or an uncharacteristic drag mark may indicate an injured or sick animal; the distance between the front and back paw in the sand tells one the pace at which the animal was moving. These are just a few of the traits a Tracker has learned after years of experience in order to do what he does best in the place he loves the most.
It is not only the Trackers here at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve who are able to don their reading glasses and track an animal for kilometres into the bushveld. The Rangers are just as eager to get out on foot and soak up the news, not only for a love of the bush, but inspired by a passion to protect a shrinking habitat and the species within it from constant threats.
The bustling business world is growing at a rapid rate - which is why news travels far and wide to reach our doorsteps, either via technology or in black and white print. However, in this small piece of Africa that few of us are fortunate enough to call 'home', the news walks across our doorstep daily. It is our job to read and interpret it just as a Wall Street businessman needs to keep a steady eye on the stocks. It is in this untamed wilderness where we are drawn to our roots as human beings, far away from the concrete jungles where we seem to remember who we really are.
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