These impenetrable forests often lie untouched by humans. With animals ruling the roost and us none the wiser, anything can be discovered within their depths. But what are these forests, really? Most of us think of a tropical rainforest when we think of the average jungle, but it seems as though forests are much more complicated than that. They might be a tropical rainforest, or they might be a subtropical rainforest, or a temperate forest, or even a boreal forest. You just don’t know until you get there, and while only 3% of the planet is covered by forest, much of this is still a mystery to us. One group of woodcutters realized this when they found a mysterious girl in the jungle who had some incredible secrets…
A strange discovery
The jungle is a wild and mysterious place, and only a small percentage of the earth’s woodlands have ever been explored. Nevertheless, woodcutters make their way into forests across the world every single day to chuck the wood and provide towns and cities with the much-needed product. Yet, one group of woodcutters had the shock of their life during one trip out into the forest. As they entered the Katraniaghat forest in India and got on with the job they had grown accustomed to doing, they stumbled across a mysterious girl. What the men didn’t know was that she would uncover some incredible secrets and change their lives forever…
Full of monkeys
As the woodcutters were chopping away, their work was disrupted by a loud commotion at the edge of the jungle. As the workers looked around them, they noticed their space had been invaded by a group of monkeys who were obviously agitated by their presence. However, the workers were used to dealing with these kinds of monkeys on a daily basis – so it didn’t phase them too much. Yet, what really caught their eye was the presence of what appeared to be another person. As they tried to get a closer look, they realized that it wasn’t another woodcutter or even an adult. Instead, it was a young girl.
Just a young girl
The woodcutters were amazed to see such a young girl so far into the jungle, and couldn’t believe that she could be so close to the monkeys without getting scared. Unfortunately, the questions didn’t end there. The young girl – who couldn’t be older than around ten to 12 years old, and wasn’t wearing any clothes when she was found – seemed to be traveling with the monkeys! They could see that she was walking on all fours, and crawling with the monkeys in front and behind her. It was as if she was one of them. Unsure of what to do, the woodcutters contacted the authorities.
Blocking their path
The police arrived quickly and immediately set aside a plan to remove the girl from the group of the monkeys. Yet, as they got closer to the girl, they realized that their path had been blocked. In an attempt to shield the young girl from the police officers, the monkeys surrounded her and formed a protective barrier. In fact, one monkey jumped up and attacked one of the police officers as he tried to grab a hold of her. Both the woodcutters and the police were stunned. How would they save this girl?
Putting in the work
In the end, the police and the woodcutters spent hours in the jungle trying to retrieve the young girl from the monkeys blockade. Thankfully, their hard work paid off, and they eventually managed to get the girl to their car. In an attempt to get as far away from the jungle as possible, they drove away from the clearing – but not without the group of monkey running after them. Eventually, they were able to speed away from the monkeys and back into the city, but they had no idea what to do with the girl…
Getting checked over
As they looked at the girl in the back of their car, the police decided that the first step was to take her to the hospital to get checked over. So, they took her to the Bahraich District Hospital and hoped that the doctor would be able to see if she was healthy or in need of medical attention. However, they soon realized that this wouldn’t be as easy as they first thought. The girl was incredibly scared of human contact and would react by screaming in the faces of those who would approach her.
The Mowgli Girl
The police officers and the medical staff couldn’t believe what they were seeing before them. The young girl was screaming at anyone that passed her and attempting to walk around the hospital on her hands and knees. The doctors and nurses had never seen anything quite like it before and prompted them to call her the “Mowgli Girl” – after the popular children’s book, The Jungle Book. In this story, a young boy is raised by monkeys in the jungle. Could this story have come to life for this young girl?
As the medical staff contemplated the young girl in front of them, they wondered whether she really had been raised by monkeys in the forest. After all, there was no sign of any family member around, she was walking on her hands and knees, the monkeys were protecting her, and as was mentioned, she was found with absolutely no clothes on. More so, The Independent has noted that the young girl seemed to be incredibly comfortable around the group of monkeys as if they were her family. The doctors knew they needed answers.
Living like a monkey
The more the doctors looked at the girl, the more they realized that she was incredibly similar to the monkeys found in the jungle. She was walking on all fours just like her primate friends, she had no ability to speak in any language and would simply scream to get the attention of those around her, and she showed signs of living in squalor for a long period of time. She was covered in mud and dirt, had knots in her hair, and had incredibly frail bones – as if she had not eaten a proper meal for a long time.
Eating like an animal
The primate traits didn’t end there. Dr. D.K Singh of the Bahrain District Hospital noted that the young girl also ate like an animal. At first, she was incredibly skeptical of the food that they put in front of her, but eventually gave into temptation and started to it. Instead of eating with utensils or even her hands, the young girl would simply dip her head over the plate and pick up the food with her mouth. As the medical professionals looked on, they once again couldn’t believe their eyes.
A language barrier
Although the hospital were willing to do everything they could to help the young girl, they had no idea where to start. They were feeding her, and they had given her clothes, but they couldn’t determine anything else about her situation because of the language barrier. The young girl simply screamed at those who tried to interact with her, and it seems she had no idea what the doctors were saying in return. This made treating her incredibly difficult, but the doctors were ready to try anything to make her better.
After hours of tests and examinations, the doctors were finally able to give the young girl a diagnosis. They were able to confirm that she was both mentally and physically disabled and that she had various other ailments. She was suffering from an incredibly high fever that was causing her body to fatigue and flare up, in addition to having low blood pressure, low levels of hemoglobin, and stomach worms. The first diagnosis was the most poignant, and caused the doctors to question what had happened to her.
A difficult question
In fact, the doctors had to face a difficult question. Had the young girl’s parents abandoned her in the jungle because of her physical and mental disabilities? The doctors began to assume that her parents must have left her by the side of the jungle to fend for herself. Although they hoped this wasn’t true, it seemed like a genuine possibility, as they had no idea how the girl would have made her way into the jungle in the first place, let alone how she survived for so long.
After many days and weeks in the hospital, the doctors finally felt as if they were making progress with the girl. Although she could still not speak to them, she began to smile at them whenever a doctor or nurse would interact with her – as if she could understand them. And that wasn’t all: the young girl also started to walk on two legs rather than four and even started to eat with her hands rather than directly with her mouth. She started to become more sociable as the days went by, but there were still questions that needed to be answered.
Searching for answers
In an attempt to find the answers to their questions, the police began to search all of their missing persons reports for any trace of who the young girl could be. After leaving the hospital, she was taken into the care of professionals while the police worked their magic. They struggled to find any evidence of her in the missing persons reports but had one last trick up their sleeve. They sent out pictures to news stations and newspapers across the country and hoped that someone, somewhere would recognize the girl.
In April 2017, the police finally had a lead that could point them in the direction of the young girl’s family. After seeing the pictures on the television, a couple from Jaunpur – around 260 km away from where the girl was found – reached out to the police. They believed that the unidentified girl looked incredibly similar to their daughter, who had gone missing. So they made their way to the home where the girl was staying, to see whether she could be their daughter. The police had high hopes.
The couple, called Ramzan and Nazma Shah, believed the young girl was their daughter, Alizah. A few months earlier they had been walking through their local market with their daughter when they discovered that she was no longer by their side. Although they tried to locate where she had gone, they couldn’t find her. In an attempt to locate their daughter they later went to the police station, where they were told that they would have to pay to receive support. The couple did not have the kind of money they were asking for.
Believing the worst
The couple could not utilize the help of the local police force, so decided to take matters into their own hands. They plastered posters across the local area and hoped that someone would see them and recognize their lost daughter. Sadly, they didn’t receive information about Alizah. They eventually believed that the worst, and that their daughter was lost to them forever. Because of this, the couple was overjoyed when they realized their daughter could still be alive. Yet, things weren’t going to be smooth sailing…
A few doubts
When the couple went to meet the girl they believed was Alizah, the doctors and health professionals kept a close eye on her to see whether she would recognize the people who claimed to be her parents. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no reaction from the young girl. This cast a few doubts over their story, and the health professionals couldn’t help but believe that they were lying. In fact, they asked the parents to take a DNA test to prove that they were Alizah’s real parents.
The couple is still saving up all of their money to take the DNA test and hopefully prove they are indeed her parents. Until then, the young girl is staying in a home for disabled children and receiving all the care she could need. She’s growing stronger every day, and even learning to say a few simple words. She’s certainly come a long way, but as remarkable as Mowgli Girl’s story is, she’s sadly not the only child to have been found surviving away from her parents’ or society’s care…
Of course, Mowgli Girl’s moniker comes from the iconic Jungle Book character of Mowgli, who has become the poster child for feral children stories everywhere. After being raised in the woods away from all human contact and learning to become an expert hunter and navigator with the help of his adoptive animal family, Mowgli eventually decides to return to human society. Sure he’s a fictional storybook character, but if the story of the Mowgli Girl is anything to live by, sometimes life definitely imitates art.
Another Mowgli Girl
Strangely enough, our Mowgli Girl isn’t the only young girl who found herself living on her own in the wild. When Marina Chapman was just four years old, in 1954, she was kidnapped from her small Colombian village. For reasons unbeknownst to her at the time, she was released by her captors and sent out into the jungles of the South American country. There, she lived for five years, totally isolated from any human contact.
Raised with monkeys
Chapman says she has no memory of her family. She was too young to even remember the name of the town she grew up in before her kidnapping. She often fights back tears as she recalls her story over the years. In order to survive, she was forced to constantly search for food. She found a family of monkeys and spent time around them gathering food that they left behind and even playing with them. She says the monkeys made her feel wanted, something our own Mowgli might identify with.
When Chapman published a memoir detailing her time in the jungle, she was met with criticism. The story was so wild (no pun intended) that her account and memory came into question. In response to her claims that she does not remember life before her kidnapping, The Guardian wrote in their review of the book: “Marina’s account asks a lot of her readers, and leads us to examine the nature of memory. If she cannot remember her pre-jungle childhood, how can we trust what happened afterwards?” She does, however, swear by every detail of her incredibly harrowing story.
A happy ending
After five years in the jungle Chapman was discovered by a group of hunters. They took her to nearest village where, for years, she was exploited, abused both physically , intimately and mentally, and lived on the streets. Finally a neighbor rescued her and sent her to Bradford, England where she lives to this day. Unlike most feral children, Chapman was able to live a mostly normal life. The optimistic and hopeful mother of two now has a family to call her own and doesn’t take one minute of life for granted.
An Indian Survival Story
Mowgli Girl’s story brings to light another story of survival from the depths of India – though this time in an urban jungle. When Saroo Brierley was just five years old when he fell asleep on a train near his rural Indian town. At the time he and his older brother would look for food and valuables on the street, to bring back to their impoverished family. After a long day Saroo fell asleep in what he thought was an out-of-service train. He awoke to find himself hundreds of miles away from his town.
When he woke up to find himself far away from his family, a sense of dread took over his entire being. “The panic set in,” Brierley told People Magazine, recalling the trauma of the incident. “I was crying for my mom and my brother and my sister.” He was forced to fend for himself on the streets of Calcutta, India. Finally, after escaping truly frightening situations of suspected exploitation, and after weeks of scrounging for food and shelter, he was taken in by an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple.
Finding his family
Fortunately for Saroo, his adoptive family gave him a wonderful new home. They gave him food and shelter and most importantly, love. He knew, however, that his birth family was still out there. When he got older he discovered Google Earth, the satellite technology that allows you to view nearly any coordinates in the world. He recognized his hometown on the map and found where exactly his village was. In an emotional journey, he travelled back to India with his adoptive family to reconnect with his biological one.
If Saroo’s heartbreaking story sounds familiar, that’s because in 2016 Hollywood released a film about his story, called Lion. The film, starring Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel (as Saroo), and Rooney Mara, highlights Saroo’s incredible story from the past to the present. Today Saroo lives with adoptive parents in Tasmania. They were incredibly supportive of his decision to search out his biological family. “If he wanted to explore that [part of his history],” says Sue Brierley (pictured left), Saroo’s mother, “we wanted him to be fully happy about his identity.”
As we’ve seen, there are both happy and tragic endings for children raised in the wild, or on their own. There is so much loss that comes with a child forced to fend for themselves – socialization, a family, love. Today we know that Mowgli Girl has been making strides in terms of her mobility and speech. According to the Asian Age daily newspaper, she’s even made a new friend at the hospital. We truly wish her and family’s journey all the best.