On 6 April 2017, the Times of India reported that police in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India had rescued an 8-year-old girl found living with a colony of monkeys in the Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from the Nepal border:
Cops in Uttar Pradesh have found a girl who can neither speak nor behave like normal human beings. The 8-year-old girl was rescued by the police in Bahraich from a troop of monkeys.
The girl was spotted by sub-inspector Suresh Yadav, who was on a routine patrol in Motipur range of Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
When he tried to rescue the girl, who seemed to be comfortable with the apes, they screeched at him and so did the girl. However, the cops after great efforts managed to rescue the girl and got her admitted to the district hospital.
No one seems to know how the girl wound up in the forest by herself. According to the doctors treating her, she exhibited some violent, animal-like behavior when she was first hospitalized, was afraid of human beings, and seemed unable to speak or understand human speech.
A slightly different version of events recounted by the South Asian news agency ANI stated that the girl was 10 years old when found and had been under the care of the hospital since February 2017, when police originally discovered her:
The City Hospital doctors, who have been treating a ten year-old girl found in the Katarniaghat forest by the Uttar Pradesh Police, on Thursday said the girl was showing improvement in health.
“The girl is better and healthy and has started showing improvement,” Chief Medical Officer, D.K. Singh told ANI.
A ten year-old girl was found amongst animals by the police personnel in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district two months back
The girl was seen amongst the animals of the forest and was completely unfamiliar with human language.
Associated Press correspondent Biswajeet Banerjee reported that the child — nicknamed “Mowgli” by the press (after the feral child in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 novel The Jungle Book) — was discovered in January, not February:
The girl, believed to be 10 to 12 years old, was unable to speak, was wearing no clothes and was emaciated when she discovered in January and taken to a hospital in Bahraich, a town in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.
She behaved like an animal, running on her arms and legs and eating food off the floor with her mouth, said D.K. Singh, chief medical superintendent of the government-run hospital.
After treatment, she has begun walking normally and eating with her hands.
“She is still not able to speak, but understands whatever you tell her and even smiles,” Singh said.
There are videos of the girl showing a child who seems very uncomfortable with her surroundings and exhibits some behaviors that might be characterized as somewhat “ape-like,” but it’s unclear at what stage of her hospitalization they were recorded. Though she doesn’t speak in the videos, she does interact with the adults around her and is seen performing some normal tasks like drinking a glass of water:
Police superintendent Dinesh Tripathi, who said he visits the patient regularly, told the New Indian Express it appeared she had lived with the monkeys “since birth,” though that is pure speculation on his part.
Reports of “feral children” discovered living among animals in the wild are not unprecedented in the historical record, the Washington Post has reported. Some have even been documented:
Numerous stories of feral children like the young girl exist both in legend and in documented cases in history. Some recent cases include children who, like this girl, were raised by primates. A British woman named Marina Chapman claimed to have lived with monkeys from the ages of 4 to 9 in the Colombian jungle and later wrote a book about it, although some questioned the veracity of the tale. A disabled Nigerian boy named Bello was found living with chimpanzees for 18 months in 1996 after he had been abandoned by his family.
Six-year-old John Ssebunya was found living with green vervet monkeys in the Ugandan jungle in 1991. He is believed to have run away from home when he was 3 years old after seeing his father murder his mother. He was placed in an orphanage and was later adopted. He learned to speak, became a member of the Pearl of Africa children’s choir and participated in the Special Olympics, later moving into a home of his own.
Ssebunya’s story was featured in a number of documentaries, including a three-part Animal Planet series, “Raised Wild,” in which anthropologist and broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota investigated three cases of feral children, in Uganda, the Ukraine and Fiji.
On 8 April 2017, yet another version of the “Mowgli girl” story emerged that shed doubt on the claim that the girl found in Uttar Pradesh was herself a feral child, however. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that a district forestry officer had come forward to dispute some of the previously published details of the case. He painted a picture instead of a child who may have been abandoned by her family because she was disabled:
JP Singh said the girl was actually found on a roadside near the forest, not deep in the wilderness. And though there were monkeys in her vicinity, his rangers “never found this girl living with monkeys,” he said.
“I think the family members of this girl had been aware that she is not able to speak, and they may have abandoned her near the forest road,” he said. “If she was living with monkeys it would have been for a few days only, not for a long time.
“It is clear from first time view, if you see the girl, that she is only eight or nine years old, but her facial expressions show that she is disabled, not only mentally but also physically,” he said.
The forest is closely monitored by rangers and CCTV, and it was unlikely she could have survived in the wilderness for long without being spotted, he added.
“Ehsaas,” as her caregivers came to know her (the word means “feeling” in Urdu), was transferred in early April to a home for mentally challenged children in Lucknow, where doctors continued to treat the various physical and mental symptoms she exhibited after being found. The Times of India reported that although she didn’t appear to have a mental disability, Ehsaas still had difficulty interacting with other people:
Special educator Isha Srivastav, one of Ehsaas’s caregivers, says that she appears to have sensory problems. “She may have missed human touch so she constantly strokes her arms and legs. She screams to show her disapproval and crawls like a baby when she is tired. She is averse to being touched by strangers,” she says.
Living with other children in the home, Ehsaas seems to be calming down. While she barely touched her food the first day, she now consumes juice, milk and vegetables. “As her food intake has increased, she is able to walk without help and even smiles occasionally,” Dhapola says, as Ehsaas accepts a piece of chocolate from another child.
But progress is not straightforward. Her caregivers are floundering to find a way into her mind. A yellow ball given to her is thrown away with great dexterity, but so is her glass of juice when she’s done. She hates her medicines, which have to be coaxed down her throat.
Meanwhile, at least three people came forward claiming to be relatives of the girl. One man, Bhullan Ali of Kamalpur, a village in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, told caregivers the girl is his niece, who went missing a year ago. She showed no signs of recognizing him, however, and was instructed to return with proof.
On 17 April, the Daily Mail Online reported on 17 April that a married couple had also turned up at the hospital claiming Ehsaas is their daughter:
After spotting an article with a photo of their daughter in their local newspaper the couple from Jaunpur, in Uttar Pradesh, visited their ‘daughter’ in a children’s home on Monday.
But now they need a DNA test to prove the family connection.
‘She’s my daughter,’ Ramzan said. ‘She went missing last year and we did everything to find her.
‘We reported it to the police and we distributed posters but no one helped us. We thought she was dead.’
The couple were asked to undergo DNA tests to confirm that she is their daughter.