It was a warm balmy evening in the African bush and the sunset was beginning its magical display. I was on a month-long camping trip in Botswana and had walked away from camp to brush my teeth when I looked up and saw an African wild dog walking towards me. Wild dogs are really rare; despite having lived in Africa for 14 years I’d never seen one before, and my first thought was, “Oh, wow, a wild dog!”
But then I saw another dog, and another, and another, and I really started to worry.
After just a few minutes, 15 dogs had me completely surrounded. The sweet air of the bush pressed in on me and I broke out into a cold sweat. My mind and my heart began racing. I knew that I shouldn’t run. The dogs were only about 20 feet away from me, and I could easily trigger their hunting instincts. I tried to call for help, but my camping group was too far away to hear me.
Armed with nothing but a flashlight, I turned in a circle, shining the light into pair after pair of glowing green eyes.
For several minutes my flashlight held the dogs off. Finally, one dog turned and walked away, and eventually the rest of the pack moved on as well. I walked cautiously back to my companions and suddenly found that my knees were so shaky I couldn’t stand. It was a terrifying, but also amazing, experience. The next day we saw the wild dog pack and were able to snap a few photos.
During my travels in Africa, I had close encounters with hyenas, elephants and black mambas. I’ve been bitten by a mongoose, stung by a scorpion and chased by warthogs, hippos and rhinos. Not one of these experiences, however, was as scary as coming face-to-face with a pack of African wild dogs.
My adventures in Africa might seem dangerous, but my love of nature was cemented while I was there. I recently coordinated a trip to Zambia for Conservancy members who wanted to experience this beautiful and diverse region for themselves. On the trip they learned how the Conservancy is promoting community-led conservation efforts that benefit nature and local communities across Africa.
During my years exploring the African landscape, I learned to cherish and value all that nature has to offer, from drinking water to beautiful savannas. I am truly passionate about conserving the lands and waters that all life — African wild dogs included — needs to survive.February 27, 2013
Connie Browne is a Donor Relations Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Missouri.