A Real Wild Child
This story written by Edgar Rice Burroughs is based on a very real phenomena...
These children somehow survive being lost, abandoned, and isolated from fellow human beings. It's a miracle that this kids somehow make it alive at all, but the behavioral, psychological, and social affects still baffle scientists. Some feral children are raised by animals, which is still an ongoing debate. Others are kept in such isolation, that they have no idea how to communicate with others after being rescued.
It's strange to think even in this day and age, that a child can be separated from the world. But in parts of the world with more remote settings like dense jungles or deep mountains, this phenomena is still happening today.
Here are a just a few of the more interesting cases I researched:
Rochom P'ngieng - The Jungle Girl
Rochom was lost in the deep jungles of Cambodia at the age of eight. Her parents searched for her for years, but assumed she was dead. On January 13, 2007, she was found when a villager noticed his food had been stolen and caught her. Nineteen years later, 27 year old Rochom P'ngieng had been found. So far, her transition to the modern world has been difficult. She is still nocturnal, cannot speak, and refuses to wear clothes or take showers. Rochom has desired to go back to the jungle, so her parents have to keep a careful watch over her.
Traian Caldarar - The Transylvanian Dog Boy
Traian ran away from home at the age of three when his mother left without him, hoping to escape an abusive husband. When she returned, little Traian was gone. In 2002, seven year-old Traian was found by a shephard. Although it was nearly four years later, the boy was still physically the same size. Experts believe there's no way this boy survived on his own. Traian exhibited many animal-like characteristics including walking on all fours and sleeping under his bed. They believe Traian survived with the help of stray dogs in the countryside. Thankfully, Traian is learning to speak and communicate - probably because he was lost for only three years. Hopefully he'll continue his progress.
Genie - Abuse and Isolation
"Genie's" story is perhaps the most well-known modern case of a child being deprived of social and sensory stimulation. Her mother was partially blind from a detached retina and cataracts, and her father was mentally ill. Her father kept her locked in her room alone, tied to a potty chair. At night, she was bound and then kept in a crib with a lid over it. Finally in 1970, after ten years, thirteen year-old Genie was taken by her mother when she fled their Los Angeles home. Her discovery made worldwide news.
When she was discovered, Genie could understand a few words but could only say "stop it" and "no more." Genie was verbally silent, she couldn't focus her eyes beyond 12 feet, she masterbated constantly, and she weighed only 59 pounds. Scientists wanted to help her, but they also wanted to learn more about how humans acquire language.
With the team of doctors' help, she learned over 100 words and could dress herself. In time, she improved and it seemed as if she was going to recover. However, she couldn't string words together. Her progress hit a wall. After five years, Genie's mom sued for custody. She was then transferred to several institutions. Her father committed suicide not long after Genie had been discovered. Genie is said to still be living in an adult institution to this day somewhere in Southern California.
Kamala and Amala - The Wolf Children
Kamala was eight years-old and Amala was eighteen months in 1920 when they were found by Reverand Joseph Singh. They were living in a cave in Godamuri, India with wolves at the time. Singh took them to his orphanage and tried his best to care for the two girls.
They both had developed callouses on their hands and knees, were nocturnal, and walked on all fours. The girls also barked and howled like wolves. Not only that, but they had developed acute senses of smell and hearing. After a year, the younger Amala showed signs of some progress but died. Kamala learned a vocabulary of about forty words, became housetrained, and eventually learned to walk upright. Nine years later, Kamala fell ill with typhoid fever and died.
The girls were known to NOT be sisters, and Reverand Singh suspected they originally had been abducted by wolves.
The discovery of a feral child faces scientists to confront the fact that we still do not fully understand how our language and social skills develop. It's a fact that the sooner a child gets help, the better off they are. But it's also certain that if a child misses those critical moments in early childhood, the brain hasn't developed all those connections necessary for true language development. In recent brain scans, the feral child's brain is found to be less wrinkled than a normal child's.
And is it really possible for a child to be cared for by wild animals? There are cases of children being raised by monkeys, dogs, and especially wolves. In India, there are just bunch of reported cases of children being raised by wolves. Are a she-wolf's maternal instincts so strong as to care for a human baby?
In 1995, a Kenyan baby named Angel was abandoned in the forest. (Kenya has forests?) A dog found her and carried the baby to her own litter of puppies. The dog's owner found the infant and took her to the hospital. Angel's story is an amazing one, and it illustrates that motherly instinct can cross animal species barriers.