Kariba’s Operation Noah Legacy Eroding

Kariba is going to be alive with enthusiastic tiger fish anglers this week, all vying for the coveted trophy on offer in the Kariba Invitation Tiger Fish Tournament (KITFT). These are normally accompanied by media personnel who come to cover this internationally-acclaimed tournament.

I pray that the various media teams that do get to Kariba this time get a chance to visit the Kariba Heights so that they can see for themselves, and bring to national and international attention, the neglect that has been allowed to visit a very special monument in the history of Kariba.

Barring the coverage offered to the building of the historic hydro electric scheme on the Zambezi River at Kariba gorge in the late 1950s, nothing compares to the international media coverage afforded the animal rescue mission and other works done to preserve wildlife after the final closure of Kariba Dam on 2nd December 1958 that became to be known as Operation Noah. The hydro-electric scheme naturally got publicity because it was, at the time, the biggest ever built in Africa.

The story of Operation Noah has been told many times. I particularly like the personal touch of this one here. Suffice to say the legacy left by Operation Noah is a prolific, frequently visited and well respected animal sanctuary called Matusadona National Park. It is not an exaggeration to say that Operation Noah represents wildlife research as we know it today in Zimbabwe.

A monument was erected in honour of the exceptional heroes that executed this operation at the lake viewing point at Kariba Heights. The Heights suburb also hosts the unique church built in honour of all those who perished building the Kariba Dam wall, called the St Barbara Church. These are great national monuments, with the unveiling of the Operation Noah Memorial graced by the Prime Minister of the country then, Mr Ian Douglas Smith.

St Barbara Church

The man who led the rescue mission, Rupert Fothergill, was honoured by having an island on Lake Kariba named after him.

operation noah memo
Operation Noah Memorial with pebbles and plaque listing animals missing

The Operation Noah Memorial, despite its importance to Kariba and Zimbabwe, has been allowed to desecrate. First, the pebbles on the monument started to disappear – possibly because someone spread a false story on their hidden value. Then the plaque listing the number of animals, big and small, rescued during the mission disappeared. It appears no measures were taken to recover the plaque. Alternatively a replacement plaque would suffice along with better security to mitigate future vandalism. Sadly, the whole board detailing the mission has now dropped to the ground; It may soon disappear altogether.

It is a shame that the importance of Kariba’s Operation Noah Legacy is eroding thus causing the degradation of the national monument. Surely more can be done by the local community and media to bring more awareness and preservation efforts to this site. Let’s engage in the comments section below…

Operation Noah Memorial
Operation Noah Memorial desecrated – pebbles, plaque and now board removed.
Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith

It was such a huge operation to rescue all those animals, who were doomed to a watery grave if they had not been. It must be remembered. Well written. Thank you, Laiton Kandawire.