All the while, Operation Noah was taking place at Kariba under the command of Rupert Fothergill. This involved the rescue of all manner of animals from the rising tide of the lake after the Kariba dam wall had been completed. Peter was marginally involved in this from the aspect of collecting samples of blood from some of the animals. These samples would be sent off to Salisbury (as the Capital was named in those days) to be tested from trypanasomiasis, a protozoa causing sleeping sickness which affects both animals and humans. Testse fly were abundant at the time, and quite a nuisance. The sting of their proboscis as it stabbed into the skin was very painful, would itch for a long time, and a hard, red, hot lump would appear on the site, but sleeping sickness itself was rare. Peter got along with Rupert most of the time but the one occasion when they clashed was when Peter told him he had to collect blood from the animals as they came off the rescue boats to see if they were carrying tryps. Rupert was admant that by the time these animals were brought to shore they had suffered enough trauma, and to now have to wait for their final freedom while a sample of blood was taken from their ear veins was going too far. However, he was at last persuaded that the research was necessary and the sampling went ahead. It took only a few seconds.
One day Peter was called to the Operation Noah camp and asked if he could take over the care of a baby elephant which had been found stranded on one of the islands that had formed on the lake. The story was that a small herd of elephants had been reported as being reluctant to move off this particular island and the water was gradually rising. The rescue team went over in a boat to encourage the herd to leave. This was successful in part as the elephants, with a great deal of trumpeting and ear flapping, reluctantly splashed off into the water and swam the considerable distance to the mainland. But one young elephant had been left behind. Peter agreed to look after it and the youngster was transported to our home a few days later after we had had time to erect a suitable enclosure for him. He duly arrived and we decided that as this was a Tsetse Operations camp we would name him Tsetse.
Peter commissioned Sabu, one of the fly catching team, to look after Tsetse. Sabu, Tsetse and Pixie the baboon soon became quite an attraction. Sabu would walk beside Tsetse with Pixie on his shoulder and take them to the nearby fishing camp for the tourists to see. They became more famous when a UK newspaper from Peter’s home town heard about him and came and did a write-up.
Sabu and Tsetse with a visitor
Unfortunately Tsetse had not been weaned and this involved feeding him from a large yellow plastic bowl containing a formula that had been decided by some experts consisting of milk, eggs, rice, vitamins and bread. Should his feeding been delayed for any reason Tsetse would become very impatient and trundle into the kitchen searching for it. It was always a job to get him out, necessitating calling in two or three of the workers to come and get behind him to push him back outside.
Not long after the arrival of Tsetse, I went to the Kariba Hospital for the birth of our beautiful daughter. From the moment she came home she was the centre of attention. Pixie was most intrigued but we had to watch her carefully. We introduced her to Tsetse who would sniff her little face delicately with his trunk.
Tsetse’s story ends sadly though. After a few months, and over time, he began to get weak. One morning Sabu came to tell us that he wouldn’t get up and later that day he passed away. It was arranged for his body to be taken to Salisbury where it was discovered he had hook worm in his liver. It was a wonderful time and privilege for us to have had him in our care, he was such a darling.