From its origins with indigenous Kalahari trackers, CyberTracker projects have been initiated to protect rhinos in Africa, to monitor gorillas in the Congo, snow leopards in the Himalayas, butterflies in Switzerland, jaguars in Costa Rica, birds in the Amazon, wild horses in Mongolia, dolphins in California, marine turtles in the Pacific and whales in Antarctica.
CyberTracker software is being used worldwide by indigenous communities, in protected areas, scientific research, citizen science, environmental education, forestry, farming, social surveys and crime prevention. The software, which is free, has been downloaded more than 400 000 times.
Climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity may have serious impacts on human welfare. To anticipate and prevent negative impacts will require ongoing long-term monitoring of all aspects of the environment.
Our vision is to develop a Worldwide Environmental Monitoring Network.
Kalahari Master Trackers
The exceptional skills of indigenous Kalahari San Master Trackers may soon be lost. These trackers represent a unique part of humanity’s cultural heritage and are an invaluable resource for nature conservation worldwide.
I have been working with Kalahari San Master Trackers since 1985. Over this period about 90% of these Master Trackers have passed away, showing a rapid decline over the last few decades. Only 15 hunters still actively hunt with the bow-and-arrow.
It is crucial that a programme of employment creation be initiated in order to ensure that their invaluable tracking expertise is passed on to the younger generation and that they mentor trackers from other parts of the world.
The world is experiencing a period of rapid environmental change linked to habitat change, pollution, and climate change. Monitoring biodiversity is critical for effective conservation management. There are too few professional ecologists to deal with the scale of environmental challenges. Furthermore, global biodiversity conservation is seriously challenged by gaps in the geographical coverage of existing data. Locally based monitoring is particularly important in developing countries, where it can empower local communities to manage their natural resources.
The Nyae Nyae Conservancy in the Kalahari, north-east Namibia, present an opportunity to develop a conservation programme in one of the last true wilderness areas that can have far-reaching implications for indigenous communities and biodiversity conservation worldwide.
The largest elephant population in Namibia is found in Nyae Nyae and the adjacent Khaudum National Park. Highly endangered species include the African Wild Dog, Cheetah and Pangolin, while Lion and Leopard also requires increased protection in the wild.
The case studies discussed in the attached scientific papers demonstrate the value of employing trackers using smartphones in large-scale, long-term monitoring of ecosystems for conservation management. Trackers play a critical role in preventing poaching and the monitoring of rare and endangered species. Trackers are also employed in wildlife surveys using animal track counts and scientific research on animal behaviour.
To ensure the future of tracking five field programmes will represent Master Tracker expertise at various stages of development. This will not only ensure that Master Tracker skills are sustained in the Kalahari, but also transferred to other parts of the world.
- Nyae Nyae Conservancy, northern Kalahari, Namibia.
- Lone Tree, central Kalahari, Botswana.
- #Khomani San, southern Kalahari dune fields, South Africa.
- Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.
- Noordhoek, Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa.
The Nyae Nyae Conservancy is the last area in the Kalahari where indigenous San hunter-gatherers can still legally hunt with the traditional bow-and-arrow. In 2018 only 15 hunters were still actively hunting. It is crucial that a programme is developed that will sustain traditional bow-and-arrow hunting and create employment opportunities that will maintain their exceptional skills.
In Botswana traditional hunting has been banned, leaving some of the best Master Trackers with no means of subsistence. The last remaining Master Trackers need to be identified and taught new skills in animal track surveys and wildlife monitoring in order to create employment and thereby maintain their tracking skills for the future. This programme shows how indigenous trackers can find new opportunities in a changing socio-economic context.
The #Khomani San lost their land and their indigenous culture when the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed in 1931. In 1995 a CyberTracker tracker training programme was initiated with Karel Kleinman, the last indigenous #Khomani San Master Tracker. Since he passed away CyberTracker has been working with a small but dedicated group of trackers to revitalise their indigenous tracking skills. This programme serves as an example to indigenous communities worldwide who have lost their traditional tracking skills.
When CyberTracker initiated the Tracker Certification system in 1994, Wilson Masia was the only Shangaan Master Tracker in the Greater Kruger National Park. Over the last 25 years we have issued several thousand tracker certificates, resulting in a new growth in tracking skills. Master Tracker Masia passed away in 2015. However, there are now four new generation Master Trackers in the area. Once we have mentored and certified about ten Master Trackers in the GKNP they should be able to develop and sustain tracking into the future. This programme serves as a template for the development of Master Trackers in areas like the USA, Europe and other parts of the world where indigenous tracking skills have been lost.
In Noordhoek we will employ Master Tracker James Minye as part of an ongoing Research and Development programme to demonstrate the potential value of employing Master Trackers in conservation to gather environmental data.
Tracker Certification Worldwide
Over the last 25 years we developed the CyberTracker Tracker Certification system which has gained international recognition for maintaining the highest standards in tracking skills (See Tracker Certification at http://www.cybertracker.org/tracking/evaluations). More than 8000 tracker certificates have been issued worldwide, including Tracker Levels I, II, III, Professional Tracker, Senior Tracker and Master Tracker. The success of the CyberTracker certification has resulted in a growing number of tracker training centres around the world.
There is a critical shortage of Master Trackers who can provide the highest levels of tracker training to the new generation of trackers. At present there are only 13 certified Master Trackers worldwide. However, the growing number of qualified trackers worldwide is creating increasing demand for Master Trackers. The worldwide community of trackers may therefore ensure that indigenous tracking skills in the Kalahari will be sustained into the future.
The Master Tracker Programme will develop the highest standards of excellence in the art of tracking. The programme will combine academic research and practical tracking skills to develop the future generation of Master Trackers.
Website Development and Social Media
To promote and develop tracking skills worldwide the CyberTracker website and related websites need to be developed on an ongoing basis. The CyberTracker website has grown over the last 20 years and need to be upgraded and reorganised. In order to streamline the main CyberTracker website, some of the content will be moved to new websites, creating a family of interlinked websites. The CyberTracker website needs to be ported from Joomla (which is no longer optimal) to Wordpress. New websites need to be developed for Kalahari Trackers, Tracker Certification International, Tracking Science and CyberTracker Online.
The CyberTracker family of websites would be:
(1) Kalahari Trackers: Dedicated site for Kalahari Master Trackers
(2) Tracker Certification International: Qualified CyberTracker trackers worldwide, news, etc.
(3) CyberTracker.org: Overall Worldwide Vision, including software, science and tracking
(4) CyberTracker Online: Online applications and backend Cloud database
(5) CyberTrackerWiki.org: Software technical support
(6) Tracking Science: Articles & scientific papers
(7) Social Media: Facebook Pages for CyberTracker, The Tracker Association, Tracking Science.
Partner websites include: Wadappt, Ixo, CitSci, SMART, Esri and The Old Way
The current version of CyberTracker software has been in development for 15 years and requires a fundamental redesign to accommodate the new Smartphone, PC, Server and Cloud computing environment. This will involve a complete rewrite of the CyberTracker software source code.
New features will include: Develop a Universal Data Collection application that will run on any Smartphone and will allow integration with any PC, Server or Online Cloud database. Develop CyberTracker Online for simple Online Apps and backend database for citizen science and community projects. Redevelop CyberTracker-SMART to make it customisable for real-time anti-poaching monitoring. Integration with Blockchain platform for Smart Contracts to ensure reliable project management and financial accountability in remote conservation areas.