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Children who Survived in the Amazon Rainforest

As if it came from a book, the remarkable story of four children who survived 40 days on their own in the deepest of the Amazon rainforest does not stop surprising the world. Facing incredible adversity and having just lost their mother, the four children were able to survive through their own resourcefulness and resilience in one of the most inhospitable spots on earth.

This story began on the morning of the 1st of May when the pilot of a Cessna 206 flying the route Araucara Airport to San Jose del Guaviare in the South of Colombia made a Mayday call reporting an engine failure. Immediately after the call was received, the radio signal was lost, and a patrol of the Colombian Airforce was sent to search the area.

Given the difficult rainforest conditions, the remains of the aircraft were only found two weeks after the crash. In the scene, it was also found the bodies of the pilot and two passengers. However, the bodies of the 4 children were not to be found, which lighted the hope they could still be alive.

The wreckage of the Cessna 206 (The Guardian, 2023).

The children are part of the Huitoto, an indigenous group familiar with the jungle environment and who are taught hunting, fishing and gathering from an early age (BBC News, 2023). Lesly, aged 13 and the oldest sister also knew how to identify edible fruits from poisoned ones and knew how to take care of her siblings, aged 9, 4 and 11 months.

Despite having this knowledge, they still faced significant challenges. They were wandering in an area that hadn’t been explored and also which is the home of jaguars, venomous snakes and mosquitos.

The search and rescue team were formed by 150 Colombian soldiers, 200 volunteers from local indigenous communities and 10 Belgian shepherd dogs.

Rescuers kept the faith by permanently finding footprints, partially eaten wild fruit and other clues. Search commander General Pedro Sanchez told the media he was convinced the children were alive, "This isn't a search for a needle in a haystack, it's a tiny flea in a vast carpet that keeps moving," inferring that if they were looking for bodies, they would have a long time found them (The Guardian, 2023).

The help from the indigenous volunteers was also crucial. Their familiarity with forest conditions was vital in finding the children in time. Without their expertise, the search teams would not have been able to cover so much ground in the virgin forest where trees reach 40m in height and visibility is minimal (The Guardian, 2023).

On the 10th of June and after 40 days of search, one of the rescue dogs found them. They had wrapped their feet with rags to move through the muddy forest floor. The first words from eldest daughter Lesly, who was holding the baby in her arms, was, "I'm hungry," one of the rescuers told Colombia's RTVC. One of the boys, who had been lying down, got up and said: "My mum is dead."

Members of the rescue team and the children (The Guardian, 2023).

Subsequently, after listening to the children’s testimonies, it emerged that the children's mother had survived in the jungle for four days after the plane crash. "Before she died, she told them they needed to continue and fend for themselves. It was also learnt that one of the rescue dogs, named Wilson, stayed with them for some time. However, they lose him at some point. To this date, Wilson is still missing.

Wilson (The Washington Post, 2023).

The children were lifted into a helicopter in the dark, above the tall trees. They were flown to Bogota and taken to a hospital for further medical treatment and reunion with their grandparents.

Alex Rufino, an indigenous expert who joined the rescue team, said “The rescue was thanks to the spiritual connection with nature. The jungle is not only green; there are ancient energies with which the populations relate, learn and help each other. It is difficult to understand this, I know, but this is a good opportunity for society, and human beings, to learn about the different worldviews that exist in the territories. The same mother, who became a spirit after the accident, protected them," he said. "And only now is she going to start resting" (BBC News, 2023).

Because of our presence in Colombia in Brookfield, we followed minute by minute the rescue mission with its ups and downs and we felt great relief and happiness once we heard the news that the children had been found well and safe. We send Lesly, Solecni, Tien and Cristian the best wishes of love and success in their lives. We also want to express our gratitude towards the Colombian soldiers and the indigenous volunteers who joined the mission. Our admiration and respect are with all of you.


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