Former pest exterminator lost in the Australian desert survives by eating termites

A former pest exterminator lost in the Australian Outback desert for four days survived by eating termites and other insects, police said Wednesday.

Gold prospector Theo Rosmulder, 52, from the southern state of Victoria, was suffering from dehydration but otherwise in "surprisingly good condition" after being spotted by local Aborigines on Tuesday about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from his camp, Western Australia state police Sgt. Graham Clifford told The Associated Press.

The prospector, who once worked as a pest exterminator, told rescuers he staved off dehydration by eating insects and termites, which provided some moisture and protein.

"He kept eating what he used to kill," Clifford said.

"We were always confident we'd find him, but by the same token, four and a half days is starting to get a bit questionable," Clifford said.

Rosmulder had been searching for gold with his wife and a group of other prospectors about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Laverton, a mining town in southwestern Australia. He became lost on Friday after heading out alone, armed only with a pocketknife, flashlight and a metal detector, Clifford said.

A massive search operation was launched at first light Saturday morning, with dozens of searchers combing 77 square miles (200 square kilometers) of the rocky desert terrain by land and air.

"The chap did say he saw planes on a number of occasions and waved items of clothing, but they didn't attract attention," Clifford said.

On Tuesday morning, members of a local Aboriginal community spotted Rosmulder, who had hung onto his metal detector throughout the ordeal. As the prospector was being taken back to camp, they bumped into a rescue crew.

Rosmulder was treated at Laverton Hospital. He told officials he planned to continue his gold hunting and was in a remote desert area Wednesday and not immediately reachable by telephone.

Rosmulder's light clothing offered little protection from the elements, but temperatures in the region were relatively mild for the Australian winter, ranging between 48 Fahrenheit (9 Celsius) and 66 Fahrenheit (19 Celsius), Clifford said. He also conserved energy by spending the first two days in the same spot near an outcrop of rocks before trying to find his way back.