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When we created the iPhone apps, Track ID (Tracks of Southern African animals) and Track Type (Tracks of Central & East African animals), the most often asked question was, "Can I take a photograph of the track with my iPhone and have the app recognise the track?"

Well, the simple answer to that question is not yet. The difficulties are enormous. Tracks that we may clearly discern with our eyes do not photograph well, unless the light is perfect, preferably early morning or late afternoon, when casting shadows highlight features of the tracks. Then there is the considerable variation in tracks, even from a single animal. Note in the tracks below the difference between the cheetah and leopard tracks, with the cheetah track the marks of the claws are just visible forward of the toes, whereas with the leopard there are no claw marks, otherwise the tracks look very similar. Below under the heading of White-tailed deer tracks in New Mexico are several photographs of tracks of the same animal as we tracked it acoss a pasture. You may clearly see that trying to match a photograph to a data base would be quite a feat. Similar problems exist with plant and leaf apps that compare images of leaves to a data base, unless the image is nigh on perfect the comparison is difficult and results are sporadic. Including a large data base of possible images for tracks would either use a large portion of the internal memory of an iPhone, or would require access to the internet, which is not always possible when tracking animals, even in New Mexico, let alone more remote places in Africa.

The tracks below are a few that we have and show the imperfect world of photography, when compared to the human eye and the degree of discernment possible.

Axis deer track on Maui

Axis deer 1


Lion track in Botswana

Lion track


Cheetah track in Zambia


Leopard track in Zambia


Wildebeest track in Zambia


Water Mongoose track in Zambia


Coyote tracks in New Mexico

Coyote track

Coyote track 2


Bear track in New Mexico

Bear track


Toad tracks in New Mexico

Toad tracks


White-tailed deer tracks in New Mexico

White tailed deer

White tailed deer 2

White tailed deer 3

White tailed deer 4

White tailed deer 5




Reference works for the serious student of tracking African animals:

Central african spoorCentral African Game and its Spoor, By Capt. C. H. Stigand, FRGS, FZS and D. D. Lyell









Signs of the wildSigns of the Wild, Clive Walker









Animal TracksA Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of Southern Africa, Louis Liebenberg