Vicky Collins Online

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Serengeti Highway: Going the Wrong Way

A plan by the government of Tanzania to build a road through the pristine Serengeti is so misguided, especially when there are other options for commerce. To put a busy road through one of the last untouched spaces on earth is a crime. Thank you Richard Engel of NBC for exploring the subject and to NBC’s Today Show for giving him the time to tell the story.

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A Golf Course? You Kidding Me?

In June I visited Murchison Falls National Park, one of East Africa’s gems, with my colleagues Paul Hillman, Godwin Opuly and Mark Jordahl. We went stealthily into the Northern Ugandan game park to document oil drilling there. In 2008, we had been in the park, one of East Africa’s best kept secrets, and upon returning in 2010, we found busloads of oil workers, private roads blocked off to tourists and tons of worry that the oil drilling would harm the park, unsettle the animals and interfere with migration routes of elephants. We spoke with Walter Labongo, the chief warden during the time of Idi Amin, who recalled the decimation of the wildlife population under Amin’s direction. He still cannot forgive Amin for what he did to the elephants and other animals. The populations are coming back and the park is finally recovering. But now, President Museveni and the government of Uganda wants to build a golf course in the park too. Murchison Falls National Park is an amazing ecosystem teeming with wildlife. It is a treasure that will be gone if we don’t take care. Mark Jordahl has been an outspoken voice for conservation in Uganda and one of the park’s best friend. Here is his blog on the matter.

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Animal Suicide: The Video

Can animals commit suicide?  Richard O’Barry, who starred in the Oscar award winning documentary “The Cove,” says they can and a dolphin named Cathy that he captured and trained for the TV show “Flipper” did just that.  Outrageous? Jennifer London traveled with him to Key West, Florida to look into this controversial subject for HDNet’s World Report. She also spoke to animal behaviorists, Dr. Ann Weaver in St. Petersburg, Florida and Dr. Lori Marino at Atlanta’s Emory University.

Animal Suicide from Vicky Collins on Vimeo.

Produced by Vicky Collins

Story: Animal Suicide

Network: HDNet – World Report

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Out of Africa

Just returned from a three week trip to Uganda where we did more video production for BeadforLife (  The highlight was seeing women who were dying of poverty just three years ago celebrate paying off homes they saved for and built themselves.  In a joyous ceremony BeadforLife presented 22 women with the titles to the land they sit on.  The women paraded from home to home dancing and ululating, and from what I heard they partied late into the night.  Women owners are extremely rare in Africa and BeadforLife’s Friendship Village in Mukono is an example of what’s possible.  Housing ministers from all over Africa came a few days later to see Friendship Village for themselves and other countries throughout the region are looking to emulate this poverty eradication success story.   

This trip we also visited Murchison Falls National Park to see the animals and also learn more about the oil drilling that’s going on there which is quite shocking in such a pristine place.  It is all happening very quietly and needs to be exposed.  We also visited Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu.  To hear the testimonies of young men who were abducted in grade school, held captive for 15 years, and forced to be child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is extremely sobering.  One boy was forced to kill his own brother, another had 22 gunshot scars and a third, thankfully, was now back in school and in his village.  I will blog more about this all later but my friend Mark Jordahl, who was with us on our trip and is a prominent conservationist in Uganda, has written a very powerful blog about the child soldiers.  I hope you’ll read his very moving account of the experience.

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Flying in the Middle

I don’t like flying in the middle seat on airplanes.  I feel cramped.  But on a recent United Airlines flight from Chicago to Portland, Oregon I sat between two men and had the most fascinating trip.  Joe sat on the aisle.  He is a 70 year old college professor and psychiatrist.  He and his wife were returning home after visiting family in New York.  He was reading a book called “Lucy’s Legacy” about the importance of the discovery of an ancient skeleton named Lucy in Africa and what it tells us about mankind’s ancestors.  Chuck was sitting by the window.  He is a manufacturing engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who was heading to Washington to attend his 30 year high school reunion.  He was reading Road and Track and a manual with Yamaha motorcycle diagrams.  Being the journalist that I am I sat in the middle asking questions about this and that and the conversation eventually turned to health care. 

Joe said he was a fiscal conservative and social liberal.  He drives a BMW and is a New York Giants fan.  Chuck said he was a fiscal conservative and social conservative.  He drives a Ford F150 pick up and loves the hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.  Over the course of the conversation on health care neither of them agreed on one single thing.  Joe said we need a public option along with private insurance.  Chuck said a public option would only give benefits to those who were on welfare or who were in America illegally.  He worried that his health care insurance would be compromised with a public option as employers fled to cheaper possibilities.  Joe reminded him we had Medicare and Medicaid and those were government options.  On every point they agreed to disagree.  Neither one swayed the other one bit and it occured to me that this may be why nothing meaningful will get done in the health care debate. 

The conversation then turned to living in Alaska which both of them had done.  Chuck had lived in Ketchikan.  Joe had lived in Anchorage.  Chuck commented about how people lost jobs up there when the mill closed so the spotted owl could be preserved in the old growth forests.  He said you can’t close mills because of a spotted owl.  Joe said Chuck’s teenage son might never see any original growth in his entire lifetime.  He added that every place will look like Colorado which has been tamed.  Chuck said talking to Joe was like talking to his dad.   Joe asked Chuck what he thought about drilling in ANWR.  Chuck said bring it on.  The words bullshit and moron and 50/50 nation were thrown in (but in a nice way) and all the while I’m looking one way and the other and shaking my head wondering if we will ever make any progress if people don’t realize the truth is somewhere in between.  They couldn’t even agree on football.

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For the love of Panda Bears

Sunday in Beijing and I feel the city is mine.  The sky is a beautiful blue (yes, it does happen) and the sun is out.  In two and a half weeks I have found a French bakery for cappuccinos, a restaurant I love called Hutong Pizza and I rode the subway.  I’m making my way through the city with confidence.  Today I decide to visit the zoo.  Apparently so does the rest of China.  This is not something to do if you get claustrophobic. 


The Beijing Zoo is primitive with many animals in glass enclosures and cages.  Visitors throw food and there are no moats so the animals often come right up to the fences.   There are some very interesting antelope and a great collection of bugs and butterflies.  There is also something I have never seen in a zoo before.  Dogs!!  In the children’s zoo there are different breeds of dogs.  They are big and little and the kids can walk them.


I have come to the zoo to see the pandas.  They are smaller than I expected and adorable. Ever since I met Suzanne Braden in Denver I have been more interested in them.  Suzanne runs a non-profit organization called Pandas International ( and she is a force.  For years she has been raising money for the panda breeding facility in Wolong that is working to insure the survival of the species.  There are only 1600 left in the world and their habitat in Wolong took a terrible hit from the earthquake.


The pandas are a hugely popular attraction and people photograph them with cameras and cell phones even behind the glass.   My NBC colleague, Mark Mullen, had a chance to visit Wolong a couple of times.  The most recent experience was after the earthquake and his stories of hope and heartbreak appeared on Today and Nightly News with Brian Williams (  He did a great stand up.  He reported by a cute little bear and then he patted his head.  Sublime!!   

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