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Tomorrow Today

Ancient tracking takes modern twist

animal tracks
Liebenberg and Mynie check out some animal tracks

CNN's Natalie Pawelski reports on the cybertracker
Windows Media 28K 80K

The cybertracker is a high-tech device to track animals
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Windows Media 28K 80K


March 12, 1999
Web posted at: 10:39 a.m. EST (1539 GMT)

South Africa (CNN) -- The Kalahari bushmen have hunted animals with tracking techniques passed down for eons. But some of the South Africa desert dwellers have gone high tech in their search for wildlife.

Bushmen turned rangers are using a new device called the cybertracker to complement their old traditions, recording their wildlife observations to promote conservation efforts.

Park Ranger James Mynie looks at some animal tracks in the desert, quickly scans the desolate rocks and scrub and presses keys on a small device in his hands.

"My job here is to keep the animals safe ... and everything here in the park," says Mynie, clad in green uniform and khaki cap. "I'm doing the track of the rhino's. The second is the buffalo's."

South African scientist Louis Liebenberg created the tiny computer that takes animal tracking into the cyberage. He would like for the invention to protect vanishing customs as well as species.

The environmental inventor thinks the cybertracker can ensure the preservation of prehistoric Kalahari tracking techniques by giving them a vital role in the modern scientific age. (Audio 429 K / 20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

tracking computer
A PDA (personal digital assistant) is used to record the wildlife observations   

From an icon menu of more than 40 species, rangers record the number, health and behavior of the animals in eight national parks in South Africa. The information is linked to a satellite Global Positioning System, which park ranger use to keep track of animal movements and locations.

Park managers link the information to survey the location and movement of the wildlife. The cybertracker can also assist wildlife officials in catching poachers, helping keep Africa's wild treasures alive, Liebenberg says.

The conservation system could also connect much more than South Africa.

"One can even visualize having trackers in national parks all over the globe. You could put it onto the Internet and monitor the entire global ecosystem almost on a daily basis," he says.

Environmental Correspondent Natalie Pawelski contributed to this report.

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Endangered Wildlife Trust - Wildlife Conservation and Community Needs in Africa
Global Positioning System (G.P.S.) - Animal Tracking
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ETHOS News: Computerized Wildlife Management in South Africa
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