Unlike Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, these tales of feral kids surviving in the wild are decidedly darker and reportedly true
A British housewife claims that when she was about 5, she spent five years living as part of a pack of capuchin monkeys in a Colombian jungle. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/CORBIS
To coax her two daughters to sleep, British housewife Marina Chapman would tell them bedtime stories about growing up in the jungle. These were no fairy tales, though — they were based on her own life. At the age of 5, Chapman, who then lived in Colombia, was reportedly kidnapped and abandoned in the jungle, left for dead. She managed to join a tribe of capuchin monkeys, “copying what they ate and drank, their social activities, their language,” until she was a part of the family, which she stayed with for five years. Chapman chronicles her extraordinary tale in her book The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of the Girl Raised by Monkeys, but hers is not the first incredible tale of a child raised in the wild. Here, Marina’s story and five other reported cases of children raised by animals:
1. Raised by monkeys When she was about five years old, Marina Chapman says she was kidnapped, probably for ransom, but was then abandoned in the Colombian jungle. For some five years, she lived out in the wild, where she was taken in by a group of capuchin monkeys, which experts say are known to accept young children into their fold. The animals taught young Marina how to catch birds and rabbits with her bare hands, so she was able to survive. She rejoined the human world when she was taken by hunters and sold to a brothel, from which she eventually escaped.
2. Raised by goats In June 2012, social workers in Russia discovered a toddler who had been locked in a room with goats by his mother. The boy reportedly played and slept with the goats, but nourishment was apparently hard to come by as he weighed a third less than a typical child of his age. When the child was rescued, his mother had disappeared. Doctors have since tried to acclimate the toddler to human life, with some difficulty. “He refused to sleep in the cot. He tried to get underneath and sleep there. He was very scared of adults,” one doctor said.
3. Raised by feral cats and dogs In 2009, welfare workers were led to an unheated flat in a Siberian town where they found a 5-year-old girl they called “Natasha.” While technically living with her father and other relatives, Natasha was treated like one of the many dogs and feral cats that shared the space. Like her furry companions, Natasha lapped up food from bowls left on the floor. She didn’t know any human words and only communicated with hisses and barks. The father was nowhere to be found when authorities rescued the girl, and Natasha has since been placed in an orphanage.
4. Raised by wild cats Argentinean police discovered an abandoned 1-year-old boy surrounded by eight wild cats in 2008. The cats reportedly kept the boy alive during the freezing winter nights by laying on top of him and even tried to lick the crusted mud from his skin. The boy was also seen eating scraps of food likely foraged by his protective brood.
5. Raised by wild dogs A 10-year-old Chilean boy was found in 2001 to have been living in a cave with a pack of dogs for at least two years. The boy had already survived a rough and unstable childhood, having been abandoned by his parents and then fleeing alternative care. Alone, the child sought refuge with a pack of dogs who helped him scavenge for food and even protected him. Officials said the boy might have even drunk milk from one of the female dogs. “They were like his family,” a spokesman said.
6. Raised by wolves One of the most well-documented cases of children raised by wild animals is that of Kamala and Amala, better known as the “wolf children.” Discovered in 1920 in the jungles of Godamuri, India, the girls, aged 3 and about 8, had been living with a she-wolf and her pack. It’s not known if the girls were from the same family, but the man who found the girls, Reverend J.A.L. Singh, took them back to his orphanage, where he tried to get them accustomed to their human surroundings. While the girls made some progress over the years, both eventually came down with fatal illnesses, leaving the reverend to wonder “if the right thing to do would have been to leave these children in the wild where I found them.”