Malnourished but Resilient, They Rely on Dropped Supplies and Ancestral Wisdom
Miraculous Rescue: Four Children Found Alive in Colombian Amazon Jungle 40 Days After Plane Crash
Indigenous children survive against all odds, using ancestral knowledge and dropped food supplies
In a truly extraordinary tale of resilience and survival, four Indigenous children have been found alive in the Colombian Amazon, 40 days after their plane crashed into the unforgiving jungle. Despite facing malnourishment and insect bites, these brave children managed to endure harsh conditions, including predatory animals and armed groups, until their remarkable rescue.
The children, aged 13, 9, 4, and just 11 months old, belong to the Huitoto Indigenous community. Despite being malnourished, all of them were in relatively stable condition, even the youngest, who celebrated his first birthday amidst the dense jungle. Their ability to survive is believed to be a result of consuming food supplies dropped by rescuers, as well as their ancestral knowledge passed down by their grandmother, according to John Moreno, an Indigenous leader from Vaupes.
The ill-fated flight took off from San Jose de Guaviare and was en route to Araracuara in Amazonas province on May 1st. Tragically, the aircraft crashed due to engine failure, claiming the lives of the children’s 33-year-old mother and two pilots. The wreckage of the Cessna 206 was eventually discovered in Caquetá province, but there was no sign of the children initially.
A glimmer of hope emerged when search teams found footprints, chewed fruits, and used diapers around 500 meters from the crash site. This prompted an extensive search and rescue operation, named Operation Hope, which involved 150 soldiers, 200 volunteers from local Indigenous communities, and a team of 10 Belgian shepherd dogs. The area covered by the operation spanned over 323 square kilometers (125 square miles). Tragically, one of the search dogs, named Wilson, went missing during the operation.
Multiple aerial sweeps were conducted, with a long-range speaker attached to a helicopter playing a message in the Huitoto language, urging the children to stay put and signaling that the search was underway. However, the children were on the move, as indicated by their feet wrapped in strips of cloth, complicating the search efforts. Despite challenges, Brigadier General Pedro Sanchez remained optimistic, stating that the children were likely alive due to their constant movement through the forest.
Finally, on Friday afternoon, a group of 10 soldiers and eight Indigenous volunteers stumbled upon fresh tracks and followed them to a clearing where they found the children. Colombian President Gustavo Petro hailed the discovery as a “miracle” and commended the unity of efforts that led to their rescue.
Heartwarming images were shared on Twitter by the military, depicting soldiers and volunteers tenderly attending to the children who were enveloped in comforting thermal blankets. One soldier was seen feeding the youngest child from a bottle, while another attended to the other children with a mug and spoon. The children were subsequently airlifted to Bogotá, the capital city, where they were transported to a hospital for further medical treatment.
The grandmother of the children, Fatima Valencia, expressed her gratitude after their rescue, emphasizing the importance of their ancestral knowledge in their survival. She explained that the eldest sibling had been caring for the others in their mother’s absence, ensuring they had flour, cassava bread, and knowledge of which fruits to consume from the surrounding wilderness.
The Cessna 206 crash and subsequent rescue efforts captured the nation’s attention, with President Petro initially sharing premature news of the children’s discovery in May, only to retract the tweet the following day due to inaccurate information from a government agency.
As the rescued children begin their recovery, their grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, is appealing to the authorities to allow them to be relocated closer to their family in Villavicencio, around 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Bogotá. Despite the challenges faced during the search and the emotional rollercoaster experienced by the nation, the miraculous rescue of these Indigenous children has become a symbol of hope and endurance for the people of Colombia.