A modern-day Operation Noah rescues animals stranded on Lake Kariba islands.

Wild Zambezi, Spurwing Island, Changa Safari Camp and Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Project • 7 July 2018

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When the Kariba Gorge Dam was finally completed in 1959 and the waters of the Zambezi River began to back up behind it, creating the vast "inland sea" that we now know as Lake Kariba, a National Park officer, Rupert Fothergill, and his team of hardy scouts and volunteers made the risky choice to try to rescue thousands of wild animals trapped on islands by the rising waters. 

The project was dubbed Operation Noah and caught the eyes of the world.  More than 6,000 wild animals of all kinds (including elephants,  rhinos, antelopes and pythons) were rescued between 1958 and 1964, and moved to safer mainland habitat, mostly within what was to become the Matusadona National Park - on the southern shores of the lake.

In June 2018 , a similar situation arose, as the water level of Lake Kariba rose alarmingly quickly with swollen river inflows following a heavy rainy season in the Zambezi catchment area.

Herds of impala and other grazers were becoming stranded without food as the waters rose covering the shoreline grasslands on several of the islands offshore of the Matusadona National Park.  

Zimbabwe's National Parks Authority, along with conservation and tourism volunteers, found themselves faced with a similar problem that Rupert Fothergill and his team had encountered (albeit on a smaller scale). They did the same as he had. They launched a modern-day Operation Noah.

Key conservation and tourism stakeholders in the community met with the Matusadona National Parks Area Manager, and a plan of action was created. 

A team of National Park rangers and volunteers from KAWFT(the Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust), MAPP (the Matusadona Anti Poaching Project), Spurwing Island, Changa Safari Camp, and several brave and dedicated individuals, gathered together a flotilla of nine boats and set off to the islands where the impala were stranded. 

An advanced party was dropped off on one side of the island where they began to herd the impala to a smaller detached part of the island, so it would be easier to capture them.  This was not an easy task!  A great deal of athleticism was displayed by both the humans and the impalas that day!

When each impala was caught, its eyes were covered and its legs lightly bound to prevent it from injury.  It was then loaded onto one of the boats and transported to the mainland, where it was released. 

In addition to the impala, a male waterbuck was also rescued.  He decided to swim out into the water and as he was too heavy to lift into the boat, the team managed to hold onto the horns and assist him across the water to the mainland, where he ran off happily as soon as he was out of the water.

In total, 41 impala were rescued,as well as the waterbuck and a scrub hare.  It was a most impressive collaborative effort on the part of all those involved.

Spurwing Island has put together a very interesting video of this 2018 Operation Noah. You can watch it on their Facebook page HERE   


Meanwhile, further west along Lake Kariba, a similar problem was happening on "Starvation Island" opposite Bumi Hills Safari Lodge.

The Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit stepped in to provide boat-loads of hay-bales and supplementary animal feed (specially-formulated game cubes) to prevent the antelope on this island from dying of starvation.    (A crisis of similar proportions was averted the same way in 2010).

Although the water levels of Lake Kariba have started to recede, there is still need to continue to save these stranded animals.  Funds are needed not only for the supply of food, but for the transport costs of getting it to these remote islands.

If you can assist with a donation, please get in touch with any of the following organisations:-  

BHAPU/Bumi Hills Foundation
KAWFT - Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust  or
MAPP - Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project







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