Namibia and South Africa
This project aims at preserving and promoting the ancient art of tracking while simultaneously fostering a passion for wilderness and wildlife amongst selected outstanding youngsters.
The Ju/’hoansi* of the remote Nyae Nyae region of Namibia are the last of the San (Bushmen) hunter-gatherers of the Greater Kalahari who still command the full suite of their extraordinary heritage. They have access to land with wildlife, have retained their resonant ‘click’ language and are the keepers of astonishing tracking and gathering prowess. They are also the last exponents of endurance hunting, the ability to run down antelope through heat exhaustion.
Only a handful of the Ju/’hoansi, men and women, have been recognized (by CyberTracker) as the remaining indigenous Master Trackers – bearers of the highest level of tracking ability based not on formal tutoring but on sheer ancestral expertise. These skills are vanishing fast. Like the San throughout the Kalahari, the Ju/’hoansi are an impoverished and marginalized community, hammered by diseases such as TB.
This Project is strengthening the prestige, financial security, well-being and future of the trackers within the Ju/’hoansi and the Kalahari San generally. It is facilitating participation by the top Masters in wilderness trails in the Greater Kruger National Park of south eastern Africa, giving them opportunities to amaze wilderness walkers from around the world with their formidable tracking skills and their exquisite animal behavior interpretations (see https://africageographic.com/blog/master-trackers-kruger/). With assistance from the Project, the trackers have now established the Ju/’hoansi Trackers Association, and a process of self-empowerment is underway. On the agenda is (1) the building of a trackers’ school deep in the Nyae Nyae bush, (2) attracting more cultural tourists to the area and (3) the forging of contacts with wildlife tourist operators running walking trails throughout the great game parks of southern Africa.
A separate but linked aspect of the Project is wilderness education for youngsters. Outstanding students selected from top and also rural schools around South Africa are participating in riveting wilderness trails in the Makuleke Contract Park of Greater Kruger. The Park is owned by the Makuleke people, who were evicted from their land by the apartheid government back in 1969 but successfully reclaimed it through legal action in the 1990s. The Makuleke have not returned to the area, an ecological gem lying between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers, allowing instead for it to be managed as part of the Greater Kruger biome and Transfrontier Peace Park (straddling South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe). In return, the Makuleke enjoy employment opportunities and share in the revenue from eco-tourism.
While financial need is a selection criterion, the principal basis on which students as young as twelve and thirteen are chosen to experience wilderness immersion in big game country is their budding leadership, their enthusiasm for the environment and their potential to give back to conservation in years to come (see https://returnafrica.com/first-contact-wilderness-greenshoots/)
Project cross-over occurs as San youngsters participate in these trails and the San Masters teach youngsters from all participating schools environmental insights from millennia past.
Donations go to support both the programs of the fledgling Ju/’hoansi Trackers Association and the sponsorship of highly meritorious young people on wilderness trails.
[* ‘Ju/’hoansi’ is pronounced ‘Juun-kwasi’, with a soft ‘J’ and where the ‘kw’ is a soft front palatal click similar to the English ‘tsk’.]