Tracking Dangerous Animals


Of the more than 70 viruses and disease-carrying organisms known to be carried by ticks, tick-borne relapsing fever, tick-bite fever, Q-fever and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, and tick-bite paralysis represent the best known and most important tick-borne disease conditions in humans.

To avoid being bitten by ticks, wear long trousers and boots, with your socks tucked up over your trousers. Rubbing paraffin on your legs or using various tick repellants may help prevent them getting on your skin, if possible, avoid long grass, or when walking along a path, avoid brushing against the tips of long grass stems as ticks usually sit on these tips waiting for an animal to walk past. When you have moved through long grass, inspect your body for ticks. Don’t pull them off, since their heads may break off and remain underneath your skin. Burn them off with a cigarette, or smear them with vaseline, grease, commercial sealant, disinfectant or alcohol.

Tick-bite fever may develop about a week or two after the bite. The site of the bite may become swollen and red. The symptoms include listlessness, headache, fever and swollen glands.

The symptoms of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever include a sudden onset with fever, malaise, weakness, irritability, headache, severe pain in limbs and loins, and marked anorexia. Vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea occurs occasionally.

Soft ticks

The sand tampans live in sandy areas where shade is provided by trees or rock outcrops. They burrow beneath the surface of the sand, waiting for a potential host to rest in the shade. Humans are not very susceptible to the toxin but repeated bites over a period of time can result in hypersensitivity. If bitten again, hypersensitised individuals risk anaphylactic shock, which can result in death.

From A Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of Southern Africa by Louis Liebenberg