By now almost everyone has seen at least one version of Rudyard Kipling’s famous Jungle Book, the story of a feral child who grew up happily with the help of his animal friends. And we all know about Tarzan, the fictional character who was said to have been raised by apes in the jungles of Africa.
But stories like these rarely occur in reality, and when they do (for example, The Wild Boy of Aveyron), scientists don’t know if the children were abandoned because they were severely disabled at birth, or if the behaviors they showed were caused by their lives in the wild.
The most recent story of a “wild child” comes from Lucknow, India. A little girl, somewhere around 8-10 years old, was noticed by woodcutters in the deep forest of Uttar Pradesh province. She was naked, severely emaciated, and was moving through the trees with a troop of monkeys.
The woodcutters tried to rescue the child, realizing that she was in danger. But when they approached her, they were stopped by what appeared to be her protective “family.”
Officer Dinesh Tripathy said:
They said the girl was naked and was very comfortable in the company of monkeys. When they tried to rescue the girl, they were chased away by the monkeys.”
After being run off, the men contacted the police, who were able to rescue the girl, although they were also faced with the group of angry animals. They got the girl into a police car and drove off quickly, but the monkeys gave chase.
The Indian press has dubbed her, “The Mowgli Girl.”
When she was found, the little girl was unable to speak or to understand language. She moved on her hands and feet, and ate off the ground or the floor. Doctors at the hospital where the child was being treated reported that she had marks all over her body, and was extremely undernourished. They believe that she had spent quite a long time living in the wild. They didn’t express a guess as to how much help she may have had from the monkeys.
Unlike the majority of ‘feral child’ cases reported over the years, this girl seems to be slowly recovering. After being treated for eight weeks, she is able to walk normally and is picking up food and feeding herself with her hands.
More importantly, although she hasn’t yet spoken, she seems to understand most of what is said to her, and she even smiles at the people around her. All of these signs point to a higher level of intelligence than may have been the case with other kids.
Police hope to locate the little girl’s human family. They hope to find out how she came to be in the forest in the first place.
Maybe if this child does learn to speak, we will one day find out that the Mowgli stories weren’t so far fetched. Maybe the monkeys really did take care of her, and we will be able to hear all about it.
UPDATE: Indian authorities are now saying that the little girl was actually found on the side of the road, rather than deep in the forest. While monkeys were in the area, it’s not clear that they were associated with the child. Police now believe that this child was abandoned by her family because of assumed disabilities. No one knows how long she survived out there, either on her own or with some animal assistance.