In India, police rescued a girl initially believed to have been living in the forest with monkeys; officials now say she is disabled and was abandoned by her family.
On 6 April 2017, the Times of India reported that police in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India had rescued an 8-year-old girl found living with a colony of monkeys in the Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from the Nepal border:
Cops in Uttar Pradesh have found a girl who can neither speak nor behave like normal human beings. The 8-year-old girl was rescued by the police in Bahraich from a troop of monkeys.
The girl was spotted by sub-inspector Suresh Yadav, who was on a routine patrol in Motipur range of Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
When he tried to rescue the girl, who seemed to be comfortable with the apes, they screeched at him and so did the girl. However, the cops after great efforts managed to rescue the girl and got her admitted to the district hospital.
No one seems to know how the girl wound up in the forest by herself. According to the doctors treating her, she exhibited some violent, animal-like behavior when she was first hospitalized, was afraid of human beings, and seemed unable to speak or understand human speech.
A slightly different version of events recounted by the South Asian news agency ANI stated that the girl was 10 years old when found and had been under the care of the hospital since February 2017, when police originally discovered her:
The City Hospital doctors, who have been treating a ten year-old girl found in the Katarniaghat forest by the Uttar Pradesh Police, on Thursday said the girl was showing improvement in health.
“The girl is better and healthy and has started showing improvement,” Chief Medical Officer, D.K. Singh told ANI.
A ten year-old girl was found amongst animals by the police personnel in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district two months back
The girl was seen amongst the animals of the forest and was completely unfamiliar with human language.
Associated Press correspondent Biswajeet Banerjee reported that the child — nicknamed “Mowgli” by the press (after the feral child in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 novel The Jungle Book) — was discovered in January, not February:
The girl, believed to be 10 to 12 years old, was unable to speak, was wearing no clothes and was emaciated when she discovered in January and taken to a hospital in Bahraich, a town in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.
She behaved like an animal, running on her arms and legs and eating food off the floor with her mouth, said D.K. Singh, chief medical superintendent of the government-run hospital.
After treatment, she has begun walking normally and eating with her hands.
“She is still not able to speak, but understands whatever you tell her and even smiles,” Singh said.
There are videos of the girl showing a child who seems very uncomfortable with her surroundings and exhibits some behaviors that might be characterized as somewhat “ape-like,” but it’s unclear at what stage of her hospitalization they were recorded. Though she doesn’t speak in the videos, she does interact with the adults around her and is seen performing some normal tasks like drinking a glass of water:
Police superintendent Dinesh Tripathi, who said he visits the patient regularly, told the New Indian Express it appeared she had lived with the monkeys “since birth,” though that is pure speculation on his part.
Reports of “feral children” discovered living among animals in the wild are not unprecedented in the historical record, the Washington Post has reported. Some have even been documented:
Numerous stories of feral children like the young girl exist both in legend and in documented cases in history. Some recent cases include children who, like this girl, were raised by primates. A British woman named Marina Chapman claimed to have lived with monkeys from the ages of 4 to 9 in the Colombian jungle and later wrote a book about it, although some questioned the veracity of the tale. A disabled Nigerian boy named Bello was found living with chimpanzees for 18 months in 1996 after he had been abandoned by his family.
Six-year-old John Ssebunya was found living with green vervet monkeys in the Ugandan jungle in 1991. He is believed to have run away from home when he was 3 years old after seeing his father murder his mother. He was placed in an orphanage and was later adopted. He learned to speak, became a member of the Pearl of Africa children’s choir and participated in the Special Olympics, later moving into a home of his own.
Ssebunya’s story was featured in a number of documentaries, including a three-part Animal Planet series, “Raised Wild,” in which anthropologist and broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota investigated three cases of feral children, in Uganda, the Ukraine and Fiji.
On 8 April 2017, yet another version of the “Mowgli girl” story emerged that shed doubt on the claim that the girl found in Uttar Pradesh was herself a feral child, however. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that a district forestry officer had come forward to dispute some of the previously published details of the case. He painted a picture instead of a child who may have been abandoned by her family because she was disabled:
JP Singh said the girl was actually found on a roadside near the forest, not deep in the wilderness. And though there were monkeys in her vicinity, his rangers “never found this girl living with monkeys,” he said.
“I think the family members of this girl had been aware that she is not able to speak, and they may have abandoned her near the forest road,” he said. “If she was living with monkeys it would have been for a few days only, not for a long time.
“It is clear from first time view, if you see the girl, that she is only eight or nine years old, but her facial expressions show that she is disabled, not only mentally but also physically,” he said.
The forest is closely monitored by rangers and CCTV, and it was unlikely she could have survived in the wilderness for long without being spotted, he added.
The hospital’s chief medical officer, D.K. Singh, agreed that no one could really say precisely when she had been abandoned. “In India, people do not prefer a female child and she is mentally not sound,” he told the Guardian.
The chief medical officer of the district of Bahraich, Ankur Lal, said it was unlikely she had been raised in the forest, much less by monkeys. He believes the symptoms of her disabilities were mistaken for evidence that she had been living without human contact in the jungle.
At last report, the girl was being transferred to a children’s home in the city of Lucknow for further recovery.