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Parents of boy rescued in Tsavo recount 6-day search for 4-yr-old son

The boy's parents, local chief, pilot and expert tracer named Gugul recount how they worked tirelessly to locate Ayub Ahmed who survived on rainwater and forest fruits which he was found carrying.

An aerial photo of Ayub Ahmed who was lost in Tsavo National Park for six days | Photo credts: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The parents of Ayub Ahmed, a four-year-old child who was rescued after spending six days in Tsavo National Park, have spoken to the media about how their baby miraculously survived in the forest.

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Abdi Salat, the boy’s father was astonished by the rescue of his child, because those who dared step deep into the forest hardly made it out alive due to the numerous predators.

He said that his little boy enjoyed spending time with animals and on the day he got lost (November 29), Ayub had tagged along with the herders who did not notice the boy wandering away into the forest.

"They never graze too far in the forest because it is dangerous. Nobody from this village has ever gone beyond 10 kilometres and come back alive. The furthest has always been about seven kilometres," he said.

When Ayub failed to come back home that evening, his mother thought the boy had opted to eat dinner at a friend’s house.

She, however, became worried when she saw her son’s friends playing, yet Ayub was nowhere in sight.

The boys said that the last time they saw their play buddy was at the well which was used by herders.

The parent’s worry then escalated when the herders returned home without the boy.

"One of the herders saw him head out with kids (young ones of a goat) and told us the group he was part of, but the group denied taking him with them, so we decided to inform the area chief," his mother Bocha Ramadhan told journalists.

The area chief organised a search party comprising 100 men, led by a search expert Razga Roba who is also known as Gugul, coined from the search engine; Google.

His skills in tracing lost people and animals in the area had earned him the nickname.

"He is the only person who can read the footprints of a lost person, livestock, or even wild animals that attack livestock in the village. He was tasked with organising and leading the search," the area chief said.

As they followed the little boy’s footsteps into the forest, rain poured, making it much harder to trace the footprints.

“We had to come back, the effort was not going to bear much fruit since there was nothing we could rely on, so we came back to restrategise on how to execute the search the following day,” the chief added.

By the fourth day, the search had proved futile, prompting the team to ask for help from Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) which provided an aircraft to trace the boy from above.

"It was nearly impossible to see anything on the ground under that vegetation and with the terrible weather, the search was the most difficult I can say I have engaged in," Roan Carr-Hartley, a pilot with the SWT said.

The ground and aerial search went on for two more days, even as hopes of finding the boy alive dimmed by the hour and the deeper they went into the forest.

On the sixth day of the search, the pilot spotted the boy who seemed to be hiding in a thicket, looking very weak.

With very little means of communicating with the ground team, the pilot decided to do several circles above the area in which he had spotted the boy, and luckily the team on the ground understood what he was trying to communicate and ran toward the spot.

The 4-year-old is believed to have been surviving on rainwater and forest fruits which he was found carrying.

"It was an emotional moment for me from the sky; a very emotional reunion. I could see how happy these people were and I could only imagine how the village that was in a sombre mood when we left would rejoice to learn of this rescue," the pilot said.

A well-wisher has already offered to pay for the boy’s education.

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