John Wayne, Hardy Krüger, Elsa Martinelli, Michèle Girardon
In Tanganyika in the 1950s, the Momella Game Company captures animals for zoos and circuses using off-road vehicles, lassos, and cages. The company consists of Frenchwoman Brandy De La Court (Michèle Girardon), the unofficial "boss" (her father also died while trying to capture wild animals out in the open); tough Irish-American Sean Mercer (John Wayne), who heads the catching expeditions; retired German race car driver Kurt Müller (Hardy Krüger); Mexican Bullfighter Luis Francisco Garcia Lopez (Valentin De Vargas); Native American sharpshooter Little Wolf (aka "The Indian") (Bruce Cabot); former NYC cab driver "Pockets" (Red Buttons), who has zoo-phobia; and several native staff.While pursuing an aggressive rhinoceros, Kurt and The Indian ride in a small herding car, which they use to force the animal toward a larger catching truck. The rhino gores The Indian in the leg, and the crew makes the five hour journey to Arusha hospital. French marksman Charles "Chips" Maurey (Gérard Blain) arrives, eager to take the Indian's place in the crew, but Kurt, offended (as Kurt blames his own driving for the injury to the Indian), punches him. Chips later turns out to be the only one present with the blood type required to save the Indian's life; he agrees to undergo a transfusion, and Sean offers him a job (after Chris makes Kurt ask him nicely).Back at their compound, the crew finds Italian photographer Anna-Maria "Dallas" D'Alessandro (Elsa Martinelli), who has been corresponding with the Indian. They are surprised to learn that "A.M. D'Alessandro" is a woman, but she shows them a letter saying she has been sent by the Basel zoo, which is Momella's biggest client, so Sean reluctantly lets her accompany the crew as they capture a giraffe. Despite many rookie embarrassments (She insists to stand up in the truck bed, when Sean warned her off rough ground. Dallas spends most of the hunt on her back), Dallas enjoys her first day. She later offers to leave if she is not wanted, but all but Sean vote to have her stay.
Pockets has fun with Dallas after he sends their pet leopard into the bathroom where Dallas is taking a bath and then pretends to "rescue" her. But he is caught out when Sean and Kurt intervene and take the pet leopard away.
Later Pockets reveals that he is actually very scared of animals. He used to drive a cab in New York and just pretends that he is in rush hour, to be able to do his job. Pockets also explains that Sean almost got married once and the girl broke his heart by running away just before the wedding. He says Sean is afraid of loving a girl again, so if he is mean to Dallas, that means he likes her.Chips arrives at the compound; after a rifle-shooting contest (Chips matches Kurt shot for shot), he and Kurt become friends. The gang visits a local watering hole (a real African hole in the ground from which the Masai tribe extracts its water).. They go on a zebra hunt, a black-buck hunt together.
As time goes on, Dallas and Sean begin to develop feelings for one another, though Sean, having previously been jilted by his fiance, resists.
Brandy is pursued by three suitors-Kurt (he shares kisses with Brandy, who considers him Uncle Kurt), Chips (who bathes animals with her), and Pockets. The Indian, still shaken by his experience, is released from the hospital, and Sean agrees to not pursue any more rhinos until the end of the season.On a multi-day trip, the crew passes through a village where a rogue female elephant has been killed by a game warden. They find her orphaned calf, and Dallas adopts it despite Sean's protests. Sean says the calf hasn't been weaned yet and is going to die out of hunger in 2-3 days anyways, but Dallas is adamant. Chaos ensues when the rest of the crew helps Dallas gather goats to get milk for the calf (The goats run away when the calf nears them), though they eventually succeed. Dallas feeds the calf with her own hands, as that's the only way to get some food into it.
That night, Dallas apologizes to Sean, and finally seduces him into giving her a kiss, though Pockets inadvertently interrupts and ruins the moment.
Over the next few days, the gang captures a leopard and a buffalo. Chips saves Kurt from a crocodile. Kurt is thankful to Chips, but they still both pursue Brandy equally. There are some funny moments when Kurt has to get the ostriches back into their pen. Sean does a minor surgery on a fawn.Later, Dallas finds another orphaned elephant calf. The local Waarusha tribe, impressed by how the elephants follow Dallas, arrange a ceremony for her, adopting her into the tribe and naming her "Mama Tembo" ("Mother of Elephants"). Dallas' new title is confirmed when a third elephant calf makes its way to the compound. Dallas teaches Pockets how to dance and helps him get close to Brandy.
The crew capture a zebra, an Oryx, a gazelle, a leopard, and a buffalo without incident, but, while pursuing wildebeests, the herding car blows a tire. In the ensuing accident, Kurt's shoulder is dislocated and Chips' leg is badly sprained. The same day, Pockets falls off of a tall fence. He only bruises himself, but Brandy shows the most concern for him out of the three, indicating which suitor she has chosen.Pockets devises a way to catch a huge Vervet monkey troop all at once by using a rocket to cover a whole tree with a fishing net. To the surprise of everyone, including himself, he succeeds, which makes a rhino the only animal left to catch. The crew finds an angry bull rhino, and, although it manages to get loose once, they finally capture it without anyone getting hurt, much to The Indian's relief.
The season's work done, Dallas begins to fear Sean will always see her as he saw his treacherous fiance, so she writes a goodbye letter and flees. Sean, with the help of the rest of the crew and the three baby elephants, tracks her to Arusha, and they reconcile. Sean and Dallas are married, and prepare to spend their wedding night in Sean's room; however, the three elephants barge in and destroy the bed.