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Tanzanian game rangers helping save lives of 50 lost pastoralists

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian game rangers saved 50 pastoralists from death after they spent seven days without food and water in the thick forests of the Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s largest faunal reserve, where they lost with their livestock, officials said on Thursday.

Martin Loibooki, Acting Director General for Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), said the group consisting of children aged 7 to 15, with 1,780 cows and over 200 goats and sheep started their journey last week in Rufiji District, Coast Region, en-route to Malinyi district in search of grazing pastures.

"A phone call that one of them made to a colleague who is in Kigoma saved their lives after information about their missing spread faster and reached security officials who started searching for them for days," said Loibooki.

He said the pastoralists were rescued on Wednesday by game rangers at Kingupira which is one among the eight zones in the Game reserve after three days of unsuccessful search using helicopters and vehicles which were deployed by the government.

After being rescued, they narrated the ordeal and pains they had undergone in the thick forests without water and food for a week only to be rescued by a phone call that they made to a colleague who is in Kigoma.

"As days went by, my colleagues started collapsing one by one because of hunger and lack of water, it reached a point where we started drinking our own urine and killed some of our animals and drunk blood and sucked their wastes to save our lives," said Lisesi Cherahani Bela, one of the pastoralists.

He said they had planned to travel for two weeks or so from Rufiji to Malinyi but there came a man by the name Nzigua who told them that he knew the shortest way where they could have travelled for five days on condition that they had to give some money.

The man took them from Rufiji last week Wednesday and directed them for about 4 days and dumped them in the midst of the Selous Game Reserve and disappeared.

According to Cherahani, the pastoralists had given the man Tshs six million (about 3,000 U.S. dollars) in advance on condition that he was to be paid more on arrival in Morogoro.

"We never knew before that we were in a protected area, but after walking for some kilometers we realized that we are in a long place, our main issue now was water, but the problem is that we never knew where we are or where we are heading to," he said.

Gaudence Milanzi, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, visited the site on Wednesday where the pastoralists were and ordered that they be taken to a safe place.

Selous Game Reserve officers are now looking for the missing livestock.



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