LAST Easter Sunday, Justin Semali Kirusu set out on his daily mission of grazing his father’s cattle.
On this particular day, the five- year old was in good company of his two other peers, watching over a herd of about 30 cows along the Burunge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Babati District.
It was upon their return home that Justin lost sight of not only his father’s cows but his friends too.
What followed was a thorough search of the young Maasai boy.
“We started combing through the area for the better part of Monday,” recalls Mr Loishiye Elias, the Chairperson of Kakoi Village in Babati District.
This proved to be futile as the pursuit of Justin could not bear fruits.
This prompted the village chairperson to call off the exercise, hoping for better news the following day.
Mr Elias had to mobilise more people for the search mission in a bid to locate the young herder on Tuesday.
“It involved more than 500 people, drawn from as far as Mwada Village,” he says.
Still, efforts of finding Justin were hitting a snag, with a harsh reality starting sink in the minds of the distressed villagers.
According to Mr Elias, Justin’s home was a stone throwaway from Tarangire National Park, raising fears that he might have been mauled by wild animals.
Last Tuesday evening, Mr Elias and the rest of the villagers were close to call off the desperate search for Justin when they received a call from rangers manning Tarangire National Park.
“They spotted a young boy, shaken, frail and tired,” says Mr Elias.
Adding, “He had to be rushed to Nkaiti Health Centre due to his condition.”
Justin’s glucose levels had gone done and had to be rehydrated after trekking the park under the scorching sun.
It is still a miracle how the little boy walked out of lion infested park unscathed, save for some bruises and cuts he had on his feet.
According to the rangers who located the young boy, Justin was spotted some 200 metres from a lion’s pride.
“It would have been worse had the pride seen the young boy,” says the Kakoi Village chairperson.
Nonetheless, Mr Elias suggests that it is the close attachment the Maasai have to the wild that might have rescued Justin.
He adds: It is normal for us to come across wild animals, they see us as one of their own.
Elsewhere, at Semali Kirusu’s homestead jubilation has rented the air.
The 39 year-old father of two has slaughtered a ram, rejoicing the return of his son.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling, I never imagined to see my first born safe and sound,” he says.
Mr Kirusu was going about his daily chores at Moshi bus terminal when he received news of Justin’s disappearance.
While he kept abreast with the search mission back home, this proved to be a long, sleepless night, that Mr Kirusu boarded the early morning bus to Babati.
It was an agonizing two-day search that Kirusu lost hope of seeing his son alive.
“So many things were going through my mind from snakes….lions…etc.” he recalls.
Mr Kirusu says he was able to sit down with Justin.
Though he is still shaken, Mr Kirusu says Justin has opened up on the ordeal he went through.
According to Mr Kirusu, Justin had gone to look for some sticks when he found himself in the wild.
As he puts it, Justin trekked the wild for two nights without eating anything.
“What shocked me the most is when he told me that he faced a fierce hyena and was able to scare it off,” says Mr Kirusu. Despite all this while, Justin kept on walking, knowing he’ll find his way home.
His second encounter was with a group of lions at Sopa Lodge area, which surprisingly didn’t harm.
But he couldn’t wipe out the tsetse flies who camped on his body throughout the two nights, in an area infested with marauding predators.
Last year, a four-year-old boy survived for six days alone in Tsavo Park in Kenya after he had gone herding goats.
While Justin survived on his bravery, Ayub Ahmed made it out Tsavo by surviving on rain water and Amarula seeds-like pods.