ELEPHANTS AND MOPANE TREES

Every time we stopped, whether it was on walking treks or for tea or cocktails, we learned more about the region’s ecological balance and how it depends on elephants. Many tree species, such as the acacia, only sprout when they go through an elephant’s digestive system, which breaks down the hard seed hull. Elephants travel 25 to 35 miles in a day eating about 440 pounds of food and scattering seeds…

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Carol Van Brugen
WALKING SAFARIS ARE FULL OF WONDERS

We went on another walking safari bright and early the next morning. Walking, we could ask more questions because we could stop, and Manda used every chance to use the bush as a classroom. I thought the huge, hard termite mounds contained termites, but the above-ground towers, sometimes as much as eight feet tall, were an intricate design that act as air-conditioning for the termite’s…

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Carol Van Brugen
OUR FIRST SIGHTING OF GIRAFFES

Late afternoon on day two at Mfuwe Lodge, our guide Manda heard there were lions at the small landing strip where conservation groups share an old Cessna for patrols. Manda drove us to the end of the small gravel runway where mature male lions with huge dark ruffs and their prides rested with full stomachs. The lion prides were off to the side…

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Carol Van Brugen
WATERMARK

Carol Van Bruggen recalls how, on walking safaris, she felt she was part of the earth. Like me, she says she doesn’t know where this love of Africa came from, but it hits her most strongly in nature when time seems to slow to a crawl, and she feels like she can breathe. Carol and her husband Steve got to know the two founders of Mfuwe Lodge, Andy Hogg, and Andrea Bizarro, who taught them…

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Carol Van Brugen
WHY ZAMBIA?

At Mufwe Lodge, I watched the younger elephants get up from a nap. I could see how the baggy skin around their knees gave them the flexibility to kneel on their back legs to a standing position much like the loose skin on my elbow that seems to have too much excess skin when my arm is extended allows me to bend it until every wrinkle disappears. But it was the older elephant’s eyes that touched me. Now and then one would…

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Carol Van Brugen
ELEPHANTS UP CLOSE

Each season in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia visitors view some wildlife they might not see another season. Elephants mostly come through Mfuwe Lodge around November for mangos, although they wander…

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Carol Van Brugen
ELEPHANTS CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH

Each day, an elephant family makes its way up the steps at the entrance to Mfuwe Lodge like royalty attending a state visit. They sway carefully through the lobby, stopping now and then to inspect the reception desk and snake their trunks around the counter feeling and smelling for treats. Next, they pick their way down the rear steps to get to the trees. They move slowly with quiet dignity and grace and pick their way down the steps carefully…

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Carol Van Brugen
THE GRANDADDY OF ALL LODGES

There are only a few lodges (bigger and more permanent than chalets in bush camps) allowed in the National Park. Mfuwe Lodge, our next stop, is the “grandfather” of the park lodges. I wasn’t expecting the stateliness and upscale elegance of Mfuwe Lodge as we drove into the covered entrance paved with natural stone and protected with a high vaulted ceiling supported by generously curved columns of locally made brick…

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Carol Van Brugen
POACHING ESCALATES, AND WE COMMIT TO HELPING ANY WAY WE CAN

In Zimbabwe, in 2013, cyanide was used to poison watering holes, killing 325 elephants for their tusks along with the other wildlife that depended on that watering hole. In 2015, fourteen elephants died from eating cyanide-laced oranges, and 22 died from drinking from a watering hole where poachers dumped cyanide. Cyanide is widely used in mining and is readily available. Vultures and other carnivores also died from eating…

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Carol Van Brugen
THE GRIM BUSINESS OF POACHING ELEPHANTS AND OTHER WILDLIFE

Poachers often steal heavy wire cables for power lines that the electric company leaves at their sites. The wire is thick enough for poachers to twist into round loops that tighten quickly when their prey steps into them and tries to pull away. Here is a photo of a young bull elephant with a cable snare wrapped around his neck, slicing his ear. Conservation South Luangwa who rescued this elephant works with Zesko, the electric company to try…

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Carol Van Brugen
VIEWING GAME AT NIGHT

After watching the Zambian sunset from a riverbank with hippos snorting below us, Manda our guide got us back into the vehicle for our evening game drive. Manda helped us find leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, honey badgers, and other nocturnal animals. We saw an adorable hare with big, brown ears and a puffy tail. The sweet little hare seemed out of place to me, and I was surprised it was easily seen in our spotlight since it would make.…

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Carol Van Brugen
THE SUNSETS WERE OUTRAGEOUS

At sunset, we parked at the edge of the Luangwa River, drank cocktails or juice, and enjoyed a snack while we watched the sun change the sky from blue to a fiery orange. The stark black branches and stunning shapes of African trees against the incendiary backdrop were worth every hour on the airplanes it took to get us there. I can close my eyes now and see it exactly as it was. Most of the time, I can’t remember where I put my keys…

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Carol Van Brugen
A STORY ABOUT A TEA BEARER

Carol Van Bruggen, our CEO told a story over dinner at Mfuwe Lodge about one of the first groups she took on safari. William was a young Zambian man who got a job as a tea bearer in one of the bush camps. There were a lot of elephants to watch that day, and the safari group surprised a bull elephant in musth. For all their size, bull elephants are frighteningly quiet in the bush, and they often blend in with the scenery. Their guide explained what do if an elephant comes near, but, of course, when a bull elephant rounds a corner and starts to charge …

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Carol Van Brugen
THE AFRICA OF MY DREAMS

Elephants roam at night to forage, and hippos eat their vegetarian menus when it is dark and cool. Hippos cannot stay out of the water long during the day, or they will die from sun exposure. Despite their mean behavior and fierce mouths, they have very tender, delicate skin. It’s hard to take them seriously sometimes because they spend all day in the water, often covered in water cabbages. When they poop in the water, they flap their short, fat tails underwater rather energetically, distributing the “fertilizer.” This behavior sounds funny, but it is nature’s way of …

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Carol Van Brugen
HAVE YOU EVER DREAMED OF GOING ON SAFARI?

Or maybe laying on the beach in Kauai? Well, one (or both) of those dreams could come true very soon. Africa Hope Fund announces the launch of its Dream Trip Raffle!

Tickets on sale now for this biennial event that provides financial support to very worthwhile education and conservation organizations in Africa. Conservation South Luangwa, Zambian Carnivore Programme, and Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust are just …

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Carol Van Brugen
EXOTIC BIRDLIFE ON SAFARI

I didn’t anticipate how exotic the bird life would be in the Zambian bush. We saw birds that live in marshes or lagoons—herons and ibises, fisher eagles, owls, and incredibly colored lilac-breasted rollers and carmine bee-eaters that return this time of year to build nests in the sides of the riverbanks. My favorite was the hammerkop, with its hammer-claw-shaped tuft of feathers sticking out from the back of a gray head that made it look like it was heading…

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Carol Van Brugen
WALKING SAFARIS

For me, walking in the bush was easier than walking or standing around in my everyday life. Earth, especially damp earth is kinder than asphalt or concrete. The pace is almost meditative. We watch every step we take and walk carefully; looking at the ground for footprints and other evidence of what animals went before us. Soon we can tell if a footprint is fairly fresh or old and identify their owners. Hyenas’ back feet are smaller than their front feet, and …

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Carol Van Brugen
REASON TO CELEBRATE! BIPARTISAN CONSERVATION BILL SIGNED INTO LAW

Today when wildlife species seem threatened more than ever, we should celebrate that the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law on March 12, 2019. The act renews efforts to save iconic species in the wild, support conservation, fight the progress of invasive species in the U.S., and promote innovative solutions to some of conservation’s most difficult problems. This bipartisan lands package includes provisions to improve …

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Carol Van Brugen
NEWS UPDATE - BOTSWANA

On February 21, 2019, Blomberg News reported that a government committee in Botswana, the nation with the world’s largest elephant population, recommended Botswana lift a hunting ban on the animals to reduce crop damage. Public hearings and consultations with researchers and hunters reviewed the 2014 ban placed on elephant hunting by Botswana’s previous administration under former President Ian Khama.

Botswana’s elephant population is estimated at …

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Carol Van Brugen
BILIMUNGWE BUSH CAMP

As I write this, the computer radio station I’m listening to is playing the soundtrack to Out of Africa, and I have a full feeling in my heart and deep gratitude that still nearly brings me to tears when I remember standing in the open African bush for the first time. Seven years later, I recall the sight of vast sleek herds of antelope with their young standing in acres of shiny new grassy meadows…

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Carol Van Brugen