VIEWING GAME AT NIGHT

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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 an appetizer for a carnivore’s dinner.

We returned to camp well after sunset with our cameras loaded with photos and our hearts full of gratitude. Back at the lodge, we sat at a candlelight dinner and enjoyed the tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers in our salads. The fresh vegetables seemed to have extra vitality, not at all the anemic, cosmetically beautiful but relatively tasteless produce our grocery stores at home sell.

Guide’s days are long, and they work many hours during the tourist season, which begins in April and ends in November. Manda sat with us during our meals. That’s when we began to ask him about elephant and game poaching, and Manda answered our questions, but his answers were sobering because he knew some of the elephants that had been killed for their ivory and he worried about the park’s future if elephants became extinct.I didn’t fully understand elephants' potential extinction until I learned that elephants only reproduce every four years, which makes it hard for them to increase their numbers. The extinction of elephants destroys the future for all people who live in the Luangwa Valley. If the ecosystem in the Luangwa Valley loses its wildlife, the environmental catastrophe will affect the entire world. Global warming will increase as the bush turns into thickets that choke out all other growth when there are no elephants to disperse the seeds and mow down dense thickets.

Written by Patricia Cole

An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites www.writepatwrite.com and www.patmcole.com.

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Carol Van Brugen