By Jane Okoth
When 6-year-old Harisson Olui was sent to collect firewood, he never imagined the unthinkable would happen. When we visited his home, the young boy was shaken. This is because he had been missing for four days, lost in Rukinga sanctuary, stuck without food or clean water and certainly scared for his life. His discovery was a conclusion of a thorough rescue operation comprising of Wildlife Works rangers, the aerial surveillance team and his community members.
Harrison comes from a pastoralist community in Msharinyi location, part of Wildlife Works’ project area. According to his mother Upendo Natengene, eight children including Harrison had gone to collect firewood in a bush near to their home. When he had finished collecting, he opted to go back home alone and lost his way. “I could not tell my exact direction and realized I was lost,” he said.
When he failed to return home that day, Harisson’s mother raised the alarm. “I informed all the elders in our village who immediately started to look for him,” she recalls. Sarkai Millia, one of the village elders said, “We were worried and knew we had to act fast because the boy was in danger.” Rukinga sanctuary is home to different wild animals including lions, bufallos and elephants, so finding Harrison quickly was a top priority.
Mr Sarkai contacted Laurian Lenjo, Wildlife Works Community Relations Manager who in turn alerted Wildlife Works rangers leading to a search and rescue operation. Keith Hellyer, Wildlife Works gyrocopter pilot was among the rescue operations team. “We were looking for any leads that would direct us to where the boy was,” he recalls.
As Wildlife Works rangers, the aerial surveillance team and community members intensified their search, young Harrison was desperately trying to find his way home. He had abandoned the firewood he collected and some of his clothes on the way. “I slept under a tree and drank water from small puddles,” he said. His mother could not sleep or eat and prayed that Harrison would be found alive and unharmed.
Harrison knew that everyone was out looking for him but thought it was because he had strayed into a wildlife park and his rescuers were coming to arrest him, so Harrison hid whenever he saw the gyrocopters or cars looking for him.
After four days of following leads and tracking his footsteps, Harrison was finally located past Salama dam, which was approximately a 30km walk from his home. One of the Wildlife Works rangers spotted him trying to dash into the bush and convinced him not to run away. “We tried as much as possible to calm him down and reassure him that he will be ok,” says Ijema, Deputy Head Ranger Wildlife Works. Harrison was frail and shaken but after a medical examination financially supported by Wildlife Works, he has made a full recovery.
Harrison’s mother Upendo would like to thank Wildlife Works for their tireless efforts in ensuring her son was safely found. “Your dedication has been rewarding and I thank you for not giving up in finding my boy,” she said.
Wildlife Works would also like to acknowledge the combined efforts of our aerial surveillance and the ground ranger teams for their dedication in locating Harrison.
Last but not least, Wildlife Works would like to thank the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who upon request provided a sniffer dog to assist in tracking. Although ultimately the dog wasn’t used in the operation, its presence brought a huge lift in spirits to the rescue teams. We are immensely grateful for their support.
Well done team!