Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
During her most recent visit to Africa in October 2007, Connie Browne visits Cape Point at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, with sister Lucia Oswald.
Mpumalanga, Drakensberg Range, South Africa
Browne and Oswald visit Three Rondavels in Mpumalanga, Drakensberg Range, South Africa. (2007)
Browne visited with friends in Kikambala, Kenya, and met even more friends. (1982)
Starting with a benign trip to Europe in 1970, Connie Browne’s adventures were in the infant stage. She then set off two years later to experience South Africa, seeing some of the natural world’s most impressive flora and fauna, witnessing the political transition of a country and the emergence of a continent onto the world stage.
“I met my future husband in Europe,” Browne explains, “and he planned to drive from Paris to South Africa. We wrote letters as he traversed Africa in a beat-up 1958 Land Rover. "Upon reaching Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he sent a proposal of marriage. I then flew to London with my young son and we took a mail ship to Cape Town. Two years turned into twenty with only four trips back to the States,” said Browne.
Browne is a donor relations manager for the Conservancy in Missouri. Her job is to meet with donors to engage them further about the Conservancy’s efforts and to ask for personal commitments toward the Conservancy’s priority conservation work.
Since coming to the Conservancy more than 7 years ago, she helped establish the popular conservation speaker series for donors. Prior to this position, she worked for the St. Louis PBS station— KETC Channel 9.
“So many times in my conversations with donors, we start to talk about travel. Many of our donors are interested in travel to Africa because of the abundance of diverse and spectacular plants and animals. It can lead to great discussions and travel tips,” said Browne.
South Africans are given longer vacation breaks, which allowed for many travel opportunities. Browne lived in Johannesburg and Cape Town for 10 years each.
While living in South Africa, she traveled to and through Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius and most South African game reserves. She also sailed extensively in and out of Cape Town, around Cape Point and along the coast.
“The entire time I was in Africa, I was learning something on a daily basis. I also learned about myself and the connection I felt to nature,” said Browne.
This translates well into her position with the Conservancy. “Our donors have these same connections with nature—no matter if it’s Victoria Falls in Africa or a walk in Victoria Glade just south of St. Louis—it’s all about the connection and being out in nature. I like that I share that enjoyment with our donors.”
Recently, Browne went back to Southern Africa with her sister after being gone more than 15 years.
“Africa has become rather sophisticated and modern. It was difficult to recognize some of the places plus there has been quite an increase in the urban population. I barely recognized the waterfront in Cape Town. Obviously, apartheid ended and there is a new political era. However, there has been a huge increase in crime in South Africa, which has become difficult to control. That said, I would never discourage someone from traveling to Africa,” said Browne.
On her recent trip, Browne did notice an abundance of bird life in the cities. “My first morning, I heard the song of the Piet-my-vrou (red-chested cuckoo) that I only remember hearing in the bush (game reserves). Johannesburg is the most 'treed' city in the world so the birds are adapting to city life and thriving. I didn’t realize how much I missed certain songs of the South African birds.”
Browne and her sister also traveled to Botswana, a stable country with incredible safari options. “This was good for my soul. When you go into the bush, it’s like going back in time. I have so missed that feeling and missed Africa,” said Browne. “I can’t wait to go back again. In the meantime, I love to hear about other people's travel. In fact, on Monday, I’m meeting with some donors who just returned from Botswana and I can’t wait to hear all about it.”
The Conservancy’s work and partnerships in Africa
This new program is shaping up to be something different than almost anything the Conservancy has done before. Working through on-the-ground partners, the Conservancy will make rapid conservation gains without wasting time and money. Instead of spending money on new staff and office space, the program will infuse $5 million directly into key partnership initiatives over the next two years.
In late 2006 the Conservancy entered into an agreement with the African Wildlife Foundation, whereby the two groups will combine forces to protect crucial corridors and habitat throughout Africa.
The first of those new partners, AWF, has evolved into the one of the largest nonprofit organizations focused solely on conservation in Africa, a respected conservation group now staffed almost entirely by Africans. AWF has projects in 11 countries across the continent.