Four Children Used Their Indigenous Knowledge to Survive 40 Days in the Amazon

Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest

Photo: gustavofrazao/Depositphotos (Not a photo of the actual location.)

In a wonderful ending to a sad tragedy, four children were found alive in the Amazon after their plane had crashed 40 days prior. The siblings, aged 13, 9, 4, and 11 months, lost their mother in the crash and spent weeks in Colombia's Amazon jungle struggling to survive. The children, who are members of the Huitoto Indigenous tribe, are currently recovering at a military hospital and are doing well.

Now, the world is trying to piece together their story, which also saw the plane's two pilots perish. Manuel Ranoqu, the father of the two younger children, told reporters that the oldest child, Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, said their mother had survived for four days after the crash. Lesly, who was used to caring for her younger siblings while her mother worked, took charge and helped the children survive.

“She gave them flour and cassava bread, any fruit in the bush, they know what they must consume,” said the children's grandmother, Fatima Valencia.

The entire nation of Colombia has been following the story closely since the Cessna 206 aircraft fell from the sky on May 1. Two weeks later, the military found the bodies of the three adults close to the wreckage, but by that time, the children had moved away from the crash site.

A massive search effort was carried out, as rescue workers scoured the rainforest for the children. Eventually, they came upon items that gave them hope—a hair tie, a makeshift shelter, a small drinking cup, and a pair of scissors. Indigenous people also joined the search party, lending their invaluable knowledge of the terrain to the search.  At the same time, a message from their grandmother, recorded in Huitoto, urging them to stop moving around, was played at a high volume. The military also dropped packages of food and supplies that they hope the children would find.

Eventually, they were found about three miles away from the crash site in a small forest clearing. As helicopters had difficulty landing in the dense forest, lines were dropped to hoist the children out of the jungle. From there, they were airlifted to Bogota, where they are recovering.

The Huitoto tribe, which is native to southern Colombia and northern Peru, is known for their farming and hunting abilities. Growing up in this culture most certainly gave the children an advantage in surviving for over a month in the Amazon Rainforest. Fidencio Valencia, the children's uncle, said that one of the children told him that they hid in a tree in order to protect themselves from the snakes and mosquitoes that are rampant in the jungle.

While they are understandably tired, family members report that they are drinking and starting to eat solid foods again. One even said that he wanted to get out of bed and walk around, even though his feet hurt. His uncle assured him to rest up and that they'd be back to playing soccer in no time.

For Colombia, their rescue is a true moment of joy and the country's president, Gustavo Petro, is taking this opportunity to hold the situation up as an example of teamwork between the military and the Indigenous community.

Four children ranging in ages from 1 to 13 were pulled from Colombia's Amazon after 40 days.

Their plane, which was flying from Araracuara to San José del Guaviare, crashed after its engine failed.

Colombia's military came together with Indigenous volunteers to find the children.

Now, they are all safe and recovering at a hospital in Bogota.

h/t: [BBC]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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