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
TIME FOR A TEA BREAK

Manda  drove up and down gullies flowing with muddy water from the rain, jockeyed our vehicle over rocks, and lurched back up to flat ground. The topography was a combination of riverbeds, creeks feeding riverbeds, steep riverbanks, and flat grassy open meadows that went on for thousands…

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Carol Van Brugen
THE WILDFLOWERS SURPRISED ME

The flowers were a surprise. Some, like “Lion’s Head,” looked just like the one in my garden at home while others were unlike anything I’d seen before. It was early spring, and unusual-looking flowers bloomed close to the ground, sprouting nearly overnight in lily shapes of purple …

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Carol Van Brugen
GETTING TO KNOW THE ZAMBIAN BUSH

The night watchman woke us early each morning on the weeklong safari and led us to the dining area for a cup of tea and toast. After that, we piled into the Land Rover with our jackets zipped and blankets up to our necks. It was usually a bit of a drive by the time we got away from the bush camp to where we were likely to see…

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Carol Van Brugen
THE NATURE OF IT ALL

We are still on our first early morning guided walk. When we moved out from the woods into more wide-open grassy areas Manda, our guide, had us each hold one strand of grass seed pulled from the top of a large, tall stand of grasses called tanglehead. The seeds are like sharp miniature spears attached to a horsehair-thick shaft which falls to the ground…

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Carol Van Brugen
YOU TOO CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Yesterday we launched a fundraiser for Conservation South Luangwa’s Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Program. Our goal is to raise $10,000, and we want you to pitch in! This program, HWCMP for short, is a win-win for the environment, the people, and the wildlife of Zambia. In a nutshell, it enables each of these entities to live in harmony. The environment benefits when elephants …

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Carol Van Brugen
A GUIDED WALK, A SAFARI EXPERIENCE

My first thought when we stepped out of our nine-passenger Land Rover was that the terrain looked something like home. I live near the American River and not too far from the Sacramento River in Sacramento County, California, and riparian habitat is familiar. But when I looked more closely at the trees in Zambia, I could see they were very different from those at home. Acacia trees were the most dramatic and familiar; they are iconic images of Africa. …

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Carol Van Brugen
THIS MAY NOT BE ON YOUR BUCKET LIST…BUT IT SHOULD BE!

Have you ever taken a trip somewhere that left you with a permanent memory? Of course, you say! Any time you’ve visited with family and friends and have had great fun. Well, we’ve got an opportunity for you to travel, and make another permanent memory. But this one will be different, it will be life-changing. It will penetrate your mind, your heart, and you will never see the world in the same way again. …

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Carol Van Brugen
CONTINUATION OF DAY 3, MY FIRST SAFARI

It got very dark and as we left Mfuwe village, the aroma of water-soaked earth from the rainy season seemed stronger and richer. We felt the shifts in the coolness of the night air as we passed areas where there was a lot of standing water and then up to hilltops where it was drier and warmer. It was too dark by then to see …

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Carol Van Brugen
LUANGWA VALLEY CELEBRATES THEIR WILD DOG POPULATION

In an exciting win for conservation, the Luangwa Valley is now estimated to have the largest population of wild dogs in the whole of Zambia. Despite being one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, wild dogs in and around the South Luangwa National Park have enjoyed several years of increasing numbers, And there are now estimated to be approximately 350 adults and yearlings living in the Luangwa Valley. 

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Carol Van Brugen