Celebrating the Anniversary Of Animal Rescue!
On this day in 1959, “conservationists desperately struggled to rescue animals trapped by the rising waters of the Kariba Dam across the. Rescuers were able to save only a few hundred of the thousands of animals unable to swim to safety—African antelopes (named kudus), warthogs, monkeys, and many others. It was called Operation Noah, and it marked the beginning of an ongoing conservation movement to preserve the diverse wildlife of from man-made threats to their survival.” - New Morning TV
In 1958 when the dam was finished, the water began to rise at a rate a couple of meters (several feet) a day and many animals became stranded on rapidly shrinking islands and without help they were doomed to drown.
But a local group of dedicated volunteers set up the Zambian safari rescue initiative called Operation Noah.
The game department in Southern Rhodesia as Zimbabwe was known then, acted quickly. They recruited Rupert Fothergill and 60 wildlife wardens from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia.
In small groups they set out and worked from dawn to dusk. They toiled seven days a week, at various sections on both sides of the lake. The rescue teams worked all through the dry season, from March to December.
They had little specialist equipment. Just a fleet of old, leaking boats and a poor communication network. What they lacked in equipment they made up for in enthusiasm and determination. Their labor is an example of what Zambia safari rescue did for conservation.
They rescued them all, large and small, including birds, snakes and poisonous ones too were not left out. The rescuers discovered that some of the animals could swim. They herded them to safety. Those that could not swim were driven to shallow water where the animals were easily captured and transported to shore.
Word of the operation spread and in February 1959 the British Sunday Mail published details of the rescue. Quickly it caught the world’s imagination. Within days reporters, feature writers and film crews were on their way to Kariba.
Soon, there were more media-men than rescuers and frequently their presence hampered operations, But they captured in words and in pictures some of the most dramatic and heart warming sights of the rescued animals, which would have otherwise gone unrecorded and unseen.
The story triggered overseas and public opinion, put pressure on governments to support the rescue project. The rescue mission was increased and supplied with better equipment.
The rescue teams grew more experienced and sophisticate. Animals of all groups and sizes were trapped or darted and transported by boat or raft to higher ground where they were release. Others were roped and towed to safety after being herded into shallow water. Non-swimmers, such as rhino were darted, trussed to raft and floated to higher ground before being freed.
In later stages tranquillizer darting techniques were used to rescue larger ferocious and /or more agile creatures. The rescue teams learnt how to dart, track, and rescue unconscious beasts before the animals recovered their senses.
Fothergill Island and the monument honor these gallant people who finally became experts at their work. The work they enjoyed most to do. Saving wildlife, which we enjoy to watch today and for the sake of future generations.
In total Operation Noah rescued 4,845 wild animals from the Islands.