Mbeya Regional Police Commander Ulrich Matei confirmed the deaths yesterday, saying reports show that six people were grazing livestock inside the protected area but authorities have recovered only two bodies and the head of a third, while three others were yet to be traced.
The incident is said to have happened on Monday this week inside Ihefu Valley within Ruaha National Park, Mbarali District, Mbeya Region.
Matagri Mbigili, secretary for the Mbarali District Herders Association, said in an interview that the three were residents of Magwalisi village in Igawa Ward.
Mbigili said after hearing of the deaths he informed state organs and accompanied the district defence and security committee to look for the bodies of the deceased inside the park, noting that the team involved the police, a doctor and TANAPA wardens.
When the team went into Ihefu Valley they were able to locate the bodies of two deceased persons inside Ruaha River and a head of the third deceased, he said.
The accompanying doctor made a short medical examination and said the head of the third deceased they recovered had a bruise indicating it was stabbed by a sharp implement under one of the ears, and concluded that he was killed.
Mbuga Salawa, elder brother of one of the deceased said his younger brother left home with friends to graze cattle, and whilst they were grazing they were chased away by TANAPA wardens, who managed to apprehend some of them.
Those who escaped reported the arrest of their companions, whereupon they followed up the issue at TANAPA offices located at Ikoga.
“When we arrived at Ikoga we did not find our brother and we accompanied the wardens to the national park area where we found his head inside River Ruaha,” said Salawa.
Makresia Pawa, the chairman of the Mbarali District Herders Association said the killings bring to 12 the number of those killed in the park in the past two years, saying the killings were committed by TANAPA wardens.
He appealed to the government to erect beacons showing the boundaries of the national park, distinct from settlement areas to avoid frequent conflicts and killings of herders.
Mbarali District Commissioner Reuben Mfune called on residents in the district to remain calm at the time state organs were dealing with the matter.