Traditional Ecological Knowledge
WildTrack co-founders Dr. Sky Alibhai and Dr. Zoe Jewell learned to track black rhino by working with indigenous Shona and Ndebele trackers in Zimbabwe, during 10 years spent monitoring rhino there. WildTrack’s footprint identification technology (FIT) was inspired by the incredible skills of these indigenous trackers.
Some indigenous communities around the world still track for hunting or as part of tourist projects. Their tracking skills have been passed down through the generations. However, as populations urbanize, tracking becomes less relevant and in some cultures the TEK is dying.
FIT has been inspired by nature from its inception. Each footprint they collect is a unique biomimetic signal. While few of us can decode footprints, there is a group of people who can: expert indigenous trackers, whose skills have been honed over generations by cultural transmission and intense observation of natural processes.
Over decades, indigenous communities from around the world have taught us how the shape, scent, pattern, gait, and substrate disturbance of a footprint or trail can inform us on who went there, stopped to browse, leave a social signal, or where they associated with others. We have translated tracking knowledge mathematically, based on our work with indigenous trackers.
We figured that if TEK could be interpreted in a quantitative form for science it could transform our ability to monitor endangered species - after all footprints are everywhere! FIT has brought together the ancient and modern in perfect synergy for modern wildlife conservation.
...And there is another benefit. Engaging local communities to use their extraordinary skills to help deliver conservation initiatives builds much needed diversity and sustainability into the global effort to deliver species protection.