Remembering Sylvester

Remembering Sylvester

In April 2010, a fatal battle broke out between two apex predators. A male lion attacked a small cheetah family, killing the mother and four of her cubs. A game scout discovered the sole surviving cub – alone, hungry and just two days old. He took the dehydrated cheetah to Norman and Penny English, who would be his surrogate family over the next six months. Norman English was ex National Parks & Wildlife Management, and Penny English was a registered nurse. Named after the scout who rescued him, Sylvester’s survival through those first grueling months is a direct result of their skills, wildlife knowledge and care.

The physiology and diet of a cheetah are highly complex, and so the department of National Parks & Wildlife Management contacted the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust for help, knowing that their veterinary capacity and resources would ensure that Sylvester could thrive. Unfortunately, by the time Sylvester came to the Trust he had imprinted on humans, making the chances for his successful rehabilitation into the wild questionable at best. His comfort around people would cause problems in rural communal areas that surround the national parks in Victoria Falls and it is highly probable that wildlife managers would have had to put him down. However, the vast open vlei that the Trust operates from were the ideal environment for Sylvester, and he was able to exercise naturally and build up the speed for which cheetah are renowned. He settled into his new life with vigour.

As Sylvester was a specially protected animal on the endangered species list, National Parks & Wildlife Management and the Trust decided to give him a career as an wildlife ambassador to champion a message of coexistence with rural and urban communities. Research shows that ambassador animals can provide compelling experiences needed for people to gain personal connections and relationships with nature. Sylvester symbolizes this fact: he was an impactful catalyst in the delivery of the Trust’s conservation messages, which profoundly affect learning and promote attitudinal changes in the region.

Tragically, nine years after Sylvester arrived at the Trust, a female leopard attacked him, and during the difficult days that followed, his kidneys began to shut down as a result of the stress. In January 2019, with a team of devoted carers by his side, Sylvester was euthanized.

The entire Victoria Falls Trust family, as well as visitors and supporters worldwide, mourned their charismatic friend and companion. He touched thousands of hearts and transformed negative opinions about cheetah into positive ones. He inspired us all to embrace and learn more about his amazing species. The cheetah that so narrowly escaped death as a cub will live on in the hearts and minds of every person who had the privilege of knowing him.

Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust continues to be a rescue and rehabilitation center for injured and abandoned wildlife. They maintain Sylvester’s noble work of helping to steward a culture of coexistence with carnivores and fostering a conservation ethos among rural communities through education and outreach.

Wild Horizons Activities

The Elephants

The Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage has been a safe-haven to a myriad of orphaned and injured elephants since its conception in 1992. Whilst hand rearing these orphans we have come to understand that the best way to appreciate these magnificent creatures is to watch them living wildly and freely.

Elephant Encounters at the sanctuary

Janet (Born 1986)

Jake, Emily, Janet, Michael and Damiano came from the Zambezi valley cull. They were moved from Dombowire Game Park, Bindura to Braeside on November 24, 1998. A year later, Damiano, Jake and Michael came to The Elephant Camp on July 24, 1999. In 2000 Emily and Janet followed the boys to The Elephant Camp.
Janet is very quick to respond to commands and very intelligent. She is quite skittish and doesn’t like anything small running around her or any quick movements. Janet also doesn’t like having other females in her herd, and only accepts Emily.

Isibulo (Born 2004)

Emily was covered by a wild elephant that followed her for two weeks and then actually broke into the stable and took her out ‘on a date’. This led to the birth of Izibulo (meaning “firstborn”). Izibulo didn’t suckle for the first 11 hours after his birth, as new mom Emily didn’t know to move her leg forward to expose her teat. We were all in such a state – we ran around looking for a breast pump. We eventually found one and managed to extract milk to feed Izibulo. Of course, as soon as we did this Emily stretched her leg forward, exposing her nipple and Izibulo started suckling! Izibulo is a very intelligent elephant. He also loves people and accepts all the keepers with no problem. Even Janet, who hasn’t liked any babies or orphans, accepts him.

Elephant Activities

Jake (Born 1985)

Jake is an early sleeper and riser, and is known to be up before anyone else! Despite his size, Jake is fairly timid and dislikes water. He won’t bathe – Jake only wets behind his ears and will put some mud on his head. In 2003 Jake was very ill with a liver problem and needed many injections – these were administered in the veins in his lower back legs – ever since then he has not liked people going behind him. We eventually had to change, giving him the medication in pill form – this entailed 300 tablets in the morning and the evening, which we would hide in oranges to give to him. He recovered and gained back his weight – we are delighted to have him healthy again!

Elephant Activities - elephant orphanage

Jock (Born 1984)

Jock originated from Mana Pools, Zambezi and was orphaned as a result of the 1988 Zambezi Valley cull. Jock has splayed tusks and dimples in his forehead. He is smart and gentle and known for being laid back, cautious and slow moving. Jock eats A LOT and is nicknamed “Piggy”. Jock hardly sleeps, but rather dozes on his feet, leaning against a tree in a paddock. Jock has a narrow trunk tip and likes to use his trunk as a ‘hoover’ to suck pellets up into his trunk so that he can take more at once because of this. In 1999 Jock fell through a warthog burrow that collapsed under his weight; now he is still very scared of any holes or piles of sand due to the fright he got!

The Elephant Safari in Victoria Falls

Emily (Born 1986)

Emily is left-handed and her right tusk is especially long. She is a fast-moving elephant. Despite this she is a slow eater and often falls behind because of this – perhaps that’s why she has learnt to walk so fast – she has to catch up! Emily is known for her easy-going nature. Emily and Janet are very close; one can say “joined at the hip”. They are almost never seen apart. Emily was covered by a wild elephant that followed her for two weeks and then actually broke into the stable and took her out ‘on a date’. This led to the birth of Izibulo.

The Elephants Victoria Falls Jumbo

‘Uncle’ Jumbo (Born 1983)

Jumbo has distinctive twisted and uneven tusks and always appears healthy and fat. Jumbo is known as an especially intelligent elephant by his keepers. He loves to scratch his back on foliage.
Jumbo is the tallest of all of the elephants – his large size comes a large appetite. Jumbo is known to steal food from those around him, and if you are eating next to him in the stable you better watch your food! He also loves his sleep and is an early sleeper and late riser – we often find him still sleeping when everyone else is up and about!

At The Elephant Camp, guests can appreciate the serenity and tranquillity of the African bush, yet remain in close range to the variety of attractions and activities that the town has to offer.

Contact Us

Telephone: +263 83 28 42279, +263 83 28 44426, +263 83 28 42001,
+263 782 745111


The Wild Horizons Portfolio in Victoria Falls