Four Indigenous children from Colombia have defied the odds and survived a harrowing ordeal in the Amazon jungle after their plane crashed and killed their mother and two other adults on May 1.
The children, aged between one and 13, were traveling from the village of Araracuara to San Jose del Guaviare when the pilot declared an emergency due to an engine failure. The small Cessna plane fell off the radar and crashed in a remote area where snakes, mosquitoes and other animals abound.
For 40 days, the children braved the jungle with little more than cassava flour and fruit that they found in the rainforest. They also drank water from the river and avoided dangerous animals.
The eldest child, a 13-year-old girl, was praised for her courage and knowledge of the rainforest. She led the younger children through the ordeal and helped them find food and shelter.
“When the plane crashed, they took out [of the wreckage] a fariña, and with that, they survived,” the children’s uncle, Fidencio Valencia, told reporters outside the hospital in Bogota where they are receiving treatment. “After the fariña ran out, they began to eat seeds.”
The children were found by a military sniffer dog named Wilson, who was part of a rescue operation that involved 150 soldiers, 200 volunteers and 10 Belgian shepherd dogs. Wilson went missing during the search and his fate is unknown.
“They’re going to have to send four new kids in to find the dog,” a Reddit user joked.
The children were flown to a hospital in Bogota, where they were met by their relatives, President Gustavo Petro and other officials. They were dehydrated and had insect bites, but were otherwise in acceptable condition. They could not eat yet and needed to be rehydrated.
“The jungle saved them. They are children of the jungle, and now they are also children of Colombia,” President Petro said.
The rescue effort was a rare example of cooperation between the military and Indigenous people, who often have tense relations in Colombia. Indigenous leaders were also on hand to greet the children in Bogota.
The children’s survival story has captivated a nation and inspired admiration for their resilience and resourcefulness.
“This isn’t a search for a needle in a haystack, it’s a tiny flea in a vast carpet, because they keep moving,” Brigadier General Pedro Sanchez, head of the rescue effort, said. “Their bodies haven’t appeared, and I’m sure that we would have already found them if they were dead.”
“The minors were already very weak,” General Sanchez said. “And surely their strength was only enough to breathe or reach a small fruit to feed themselves or drink a drop of water in the jungle.”
– The search for Wilson, the dog that helped find the children in the jungle, continues, Reddit, Sun, 11 Jun 2023
– Cassava flour and fruit kept 4 children alive for 40 days after plane crash in Colombia’s jungle, Orlando Sentinel, Fri, 10 Jun 2023
– Children found near crash site in Colombia, rescue dog missing, The Brunswick News, Fri, 10 Jun 2023