Meet the Handlers & Keepers

At Wild Horizons the elephant’s welfare and well-being has always taken precedence and the elephant keepers have been equipped with expansive training and knowledge to ensure dignified care of the animals.

The Victoria Falls Elephant Sanctuary Team

Our team features many individual stars. Below we have highlighted a few of our people and short biography.

Zenzo Sibanda

It is the mid 1980’s. The Zambezi National Park is overflowing with wildlife. But the trees are bare. The ground is dry and barren. The animals are excessive but the resources are scarce. A decision is made by the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks- they have no choice but to implement a culling policy, destroying entire herds of elephant, sparing only the juveniles who are no longer dependent on their mothers milk, yet are still small enough to relocate.
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These orphaned elephant are to be sold to various local farmers, zoos and even circuses around the world.
Miles away in Chinhoyi, a young boy sits on the back of his fathers tractor, watching the farm owner offloading four young elephant from a trailer. The child’s wide eyes watch as these gentle giants fearfully navigate their new world. He is utterly enthralled by these majestic animals in the throws of enormous change. Decades later, those same wide eyes watch with the same admiration as those same elephants and dozens more happily roam around a different home, one that is ideally equipped to give them the life they might have had had the culling not been necessary. This home is at The Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary. The man watching the elephant is Zenzo Sibanda. And when you find yourself wondering how elephants with such a disruptive and traumatic past have grown into such happy and healthy individuals, you need to look no further than Zenzo, the man who raised them and saved them, to find your answer.

After the relocation, many farmers realized that they had gravely underestimated how much time and effort had to be devoted to successfully raising young elephant. Unfortunately, by this point rehabilitation into the wild was no longer an option. The elephant had grown too accustomed to humans, and it was likely they would wander out of the National Parks into towns and villages, causing unintentional havoc. It appears as though fate decided to intervene at this stage. Worlds away in India, the tourism industry had begun to embrace elephant interactions as a key method in bridging the divide between humans and nature in an educational and enriching way. Feeling hopeful and optimistic, the owner of the farm where Zenzo lived approached a small and newly established tourism company in Victoria Falls- Wild Horizons. And so the Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary was born, and became a beam of light in an otherwise dark and troubled time for the elephant.

Wild Horizons, though skeptical of the idea, acknowledged that without their intervention the future well being of the elephant was in jeopardy. The welfare of the elephant was paramount to the success of the project, and so the first step was to send two guides to Riddles Elephant Training School in Little Rock Arkansas where they were taught how to properly care for habituated elephant. Next, a suitable location for the sanctuary needed to be established. Jijima Camp was nestled within the rich natural landscape bordering the town of Victoria Falls, and the breath taking natural scenery, abundant luscious vegetation and stretches of pristine wilderness made this the perfect place. In 1997, when Zenzo was just 17 years old, he, Miz Ele, Jock, Jack, and Jumbo, now fondly known as the founding four, made their way to their new home.

The Elephant Camp was built to provide luxury accommodation in a stunning natural space, where the elephants could roam freely in between the time spent interacting with tourists. Zenzo quickly rose through the ranks of elephant care and progressed from being a handler, to a trainer, to eventually the elephant manager in 2003. He now oversees the entire elephant interaction operation from behind the scenes, from elephant care to the logistical and operational aspects involved in keeping two herds of elephants happy, healthy and safe. Wild Horizons was soon recognized as the leading company in proper elephant care, and over the years Zenzo and his team have welcomed other elephants into their sanctuary after incidences of poaching, abandonment or culling operations. Each one has received the love and care that only a man like Zenzo could provide. He has an appreciation, sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills him with compassion, gentleness and deep loving concern for all the elephants, each of which clearly returns this love tenfold.
Zenzo has spent most of his life caring for elephants that he met by chance as a little boy. For them, he was a waterfall in a dry landscape. Zenzo laughs generously. Sometimes a throaty chuckle, sometimes a windy gust. A person will hear Zenzo’s heartfelt words, but it is clear that the elephants can feel his attitude, because the love and respect between this man and his herd is perhaps the most eloquent description of family there is. I arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary expecting to meet a manager. Instead, I found an entertainer, an organizer and entrepreneur, a builder of lives and communities, a man of might. He truly is an asset to Wild Horizons and we thank him whole-heartedly for his lifetime of dedication to the Wild Horizons elephant herd.

Alisto Marume

Alisto Marume grew in the Midlands of Zimbabwe. This area isn’t known for elephants so he only knew what he was taught by his father and other people which was that elephants were not good for farmers or safe to be around.
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When Alisto started working, he had a friend who was a tracker/guide who told him about these elephants that could be ridden/walked with aorund people. He wanted to learn more and took a chance working with elephants. He was fortunate enough to work with several companies to gain experience in Zambia and South Africa.

Alisto came to Wild Horizons in 2012 and immediately felt a connection with these elephants. He has a soft spot for Jumbo and Coco. They are two of the elder elephants and they understand and are very easy to be around.

Alisto has learned so much being around elephants and they have taught him a sense of love and understanding that he didn’t know before. He said “if I leave and come back, they recognize my voice and my scent. They know me and that I belong to them.”

Amos Shoko

It’s time to meet Amos Shoko. He is so dedicated to the Wild Horizon Elephants and you will notice that right away when you meet him. His love for the elephants is part of him – its not just a job but a way of life.
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Amos has been with Wild Horizons since 2003 and when he first came to visit, at the suggestion of his friend Zenzo who already worked here, he was very nervous. Growing up in a rural community near Hwange National Park, Amos only knew elephants were crop raiders and very dangerous. It wasn’t until he visited these elephants and their keepers that he could believe you could be close to them, walk with them and develop relationships with them.

He chose to give working with elephants a try and when Wild Horizons had an urgent call for a lone baby elephant near a coal mine close to Hwange – they asked Amos if he would take care of this baby when it arrived back to the stables. He did and it was the best decision of his life. The baby was named Malasha (meaning coal). Amos was Malasha’s human mom for the first three months as an orphan and with her 24 hours a day. He established a bond with Malasha and she trusted him implicitly.

Amos was able to watch Malasha grow along with several other orphans. He loves all the elephants he works with but being part of an elephants infancy to adulthood holds a special place in his heart.

Because of this love, Amos has broadened his goals and gained his learners guide. After working with the elephants he would go to schools 2 hours a night. It took him a year but thanks to being outdoors and his love of elephants he accomplished this goal.

Amos has two young daughters and they have visited the Wallow. He knows he is bringing up the next generation of people to appreciate elephants and wildlife – not to fear them.

When you meet Amos, be sure to ask him about the time they encountered a bull elephant in musth…

Harrison Phiri

When you meet Harrison, you will see that he has a natural comfort around the elephants. Growing up he was told that elephants were dangerous and could kill a person but he didn’t really believe it. In the back of his mind he always knew there was more to these giant, gentle creatures.
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Harrison who had a friend who worked with elephants and was asked to work for a company that needed stables built for elephants. He did this job and at the end was asked to stay on cleaning the stables and feeding these elephants. Although he was nervous about being close to them he knew it was a great opportunity for him to learn. After just three months, they put him with an elephant to care for and he was a natural. He never considered another job after that time.

He has worked with many elephants over his 13+ year career both in Zimbabwe and South Africa. He has been with Wild Horizons for six years now and wouldn’t change his choice to be with elephants. He has learned that if you treat them nicely and respect them, they understand and will respect you as well.

Although Harrison loves all of the elephants, he has a special bond with Emily. She accepted Harrison right away and never challenged him. When you come meet Harrison and Emily you will have the opportunity to see their strong relationship in person.

Joram Ndlovu

Joram has worked with the elephants at Wild Horizons since 2001. When he first started he cleaned the stables and brought in food for the elephants. He slowly started to work up the courage to get closer to these magnificent animals until he was comfortable enough to be a keeper himself.
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Like many of the other keepers, Joram grew up believing elephants were dangerous and stole the crops from families. He decided to take that chance and started working with the baby orphan elephants. This is what changed his life. He learned so much from the orphans and it made all the difference in his life. The most important thing they have taught him is communication. You can solve any issue as long as you communicate.

This was proven one time when three keepers were out with elephants and their behavior changed quicly. The elephants were rumbling and changed their walking direction. This made the keepers more aware that something was going on. As the elephants approached an area three lions stood up from their kill. As the elephants started trumpeting and running at the lions, it gave the keepers time to run the other way. The communication and action by the elephants enlightened Joram on just how much trust and respect was between them.

When you meet Joram, ask him about his favorite elephant Emily. She holds a special place in his heart.

Lovemore Ngandu

Lovemore is from the Bulawayo area of Zimbabwe. Since he did not grow up in a rural area he wasn’t as familiar with the elephants but heard stories from his father and others. Lovemore couldn’t believe elephants were as bad as he was told and he always wanted to find out for himself.
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His brother Richard was already working at Wild Horizons and Lovemore came to join him. Lovemore has been with Wild Horizons for 20 years now but he still looks like he is in his 20’s.

He credits his health and young energy to being with the elephants and nature. When he first came to visit Wild Horizons and the elephants, he knew immediately this was the place for him and his future. He has had many experiences and traveled with some of the elephants when they were relocated to South Africa. He believes that experience is one of his favorite because he cared for these elephants up until they were released back into the wild. As an elephant parent, this was an emotional experience to set your elephant free.

Lovemore believes in respect with the elephants. He says that elephants are very smart and even with the wild elephants they meet in the bush, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Lovemore has two decades of experience to share when you come visit the Wallow and the Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary.

Manda Sibanda

You will feel very welcomed when you meet Manda at the Wallow. He is the first face you will see when you arrive. He has been with Wild Horizons for eleven years and has a varied career to share.
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He spent ten years in the hospitality industry. He worked in both Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, mainly in food service and catering. The little voice in him knew he always loved wildlife and pushed him in that direction at the right time. He left hospitality to obtain his guide’s license. (Zimbabwe has the most difficult and lengthy course to obtain a wildlife guide license)

At the Wallow Manda wears many hats. He works in administration as a main part of his job but he also gets to be with children that visit and with the elephants. Wild Horizons has a program where children from schools within a 100km radius can visit the Wallow on Fridays and you will find Manda interacting and giving the informative talk to the kids when they visit. Also, when guests arrive, Manda welcomes them, gives the safety information to them and sometimes goes along out in the bush on the encounter with the elephants too.

Manda knew that being in the bush was part of his future and as he says “you have to take opportunities when they arrive to live and support your family but eventually your passion comes back to guide you”. That indeed happened for Manda and he loves being part of the Wallow, elephants and making guests feel at home.

Mathias Sibanda

When you meet Mathias you will feel his energy and love of the elephants he works with everyday. He came to Victoria Falls in 2002 to find a job. He had a relative who worked for Wild Horizons and he decided to interview. They hired him to work around the elephants.
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Mathias grew up, like many of the keepers, in a rural area where elephants were known to be dangerous. This made Mathias very nervous but he knew he had to try to be comfortable around these animals. Each day he would clean the stables and bring food for the elephants while working up the courage to be near them. The senior keepers would encourage Mathias but he says it took him two years to find a good comfort level with the gentle giants.

Once he had that comfort level, he knew this was his calling and he didn’t want to leave. Of course when Mathias would go home on holiday he would try to explain his job to his friends and family. It was difficult for them to believe he could be work beside and be close to these “dangerous” animals. Luckily with technology he was able to share photos and videos of his elephants. Mathias loves to teach people that elephants deserve three things – love, respect and trust. He says the elephants are so intelligent and they understand their environment, what the keepers are feeling and respect is the only way to co-exist with wildlife.

Mathias has two children ages ten and seven. They believe their dad’s job of working with elephants is very cool and share that with their classmates.

Mathias has so many incredible experiences from the last 15+ years so please ask him to share as you will feel the same love he has for these beautiful elephants.

Misheck Ncube

Misheck grew up around wildlife. He was fortunate enough to spend time with his father who worked around Hwange National Park. Although people would tell stories of these dangerous animals, Misheck was always comfortable in the bush and it has been his passion since he was a boy.
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His first job was raising baby orphan eland. In 1999 he joined Wild Horizons to care for the orphan elephants. His first charge was Rastas who he developed a very deep bond with until his release in 2010. In 2003, he took a three year hiatus but returned to Wild Horizons and his elephants in 2006 and has been here ever since.

Misheck has a calm and reassuring demeanor. He is very comfortable in the bush and being with the elephants is very natural to him. He loves all the elephants and when asked who was his favorite, it started with Jumbo but then he said it was also Coco and Tendai and Jock… They all have a bond with Misheck and they understand him.

Richard Ngandu

Senior Handler
Richard has a long history with the Wild Horizons elephants. He started working here in 1997 but before that he had a job working with horses. Richard will tell you that the experience of working with horses is very similar to elephants.
One of the farmers he worked for also had elephants because at that time people owned elephants after culling had taken place in the Zambezi Valley. The elephants this gentleman had were Jock, Jumbo, Mizz Ellie and Jake and the rest is history…
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The senior handler of these elephants took Richard under his wing and taught him how to train, act and be with the elephants. It wasn’t long before Richard, as a teenager, fell in love with these teenage elephants.

As you can imagine, Richard has decades of experience with the elephants and loves them like his own. He doesn’t have a favorite as they have all taught him something about life and he respects them very much. He has seen the good and bad of raising and living among wild animals. He believes that no matter what you have to be respectful, kind and always communicate.

Samuel Kowo

Samuel Kowo is a kind and gentle man who has been with Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary since 1999. His story is interesting because where Samuel grew up, outside Harare, he didn’t know much at all about elephants. He has a olorful career of working in Harare and Bulawayo in the food service industry.
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He moved to Victoria Falls and applied for a job at Wild Horizons Elephant Camp. He was hired and worked there for about one year. During that time he would see the elephants milling around outside the camp and was always interested in the operation of the Sanctuary. He asked if he could transfer to the elephant stables and began working there cleaning out stables and feeding the elephants. With the assistance of the senior handlers, Samuel learned quickly that this was his passion.

Samuel has a soft spot for the girls in the herds. He has so many stories to tell and has had the amazing experience of watching one of the females actually give birth. He says the females are so gentle and they listen so well.

Norman Musapuri

Norman Musapuri didn’t know much about elephants when he grew up in Kadoma. He had heard about them raiding crops in the rural communities but nothing he really thought about again. As he grew up and started working, he had the opportunity to work with elephants in Zambia. This was the beginning of his career.
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He came to Wild Horizons in 2008 and has loved being with the elephants every day since. He says it is easy to be friends with elephants as long as you treat them well and have mutual respect.

Norman loves all of the elephants but like some of the other keepers, he enjoys the company of Jumbo and Coco as they are laid back and very intelligent.

We Need You

In order to safeguard and sustain the Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary we need you.
We want you to become part of our team to ensure the future of Zimbabwe’s elephants. Your support will go directly to the efforts of continuing the elephants care, anti-poaching efforts and educating the next generation to conserve Africa’s most gentle giants.

Adopt an Elephant or Donate Today!


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