Cristin had a year in the middle of the Amazon jungle of Colombia. Rescued Friday, this baby is a miracle. Along with her siblings, she was found by army rescuers after surviving 40 days without assistance, Colombian President Gustavo Petro said.
The lives of these young children were turned upside down on May 1, when they crashed the plane they were on. The three adults who accompanied them, including their mother, died instantly and rescuers quickly identified their bodies. But in the middle of the jungle, Lesly (13), Soleiny (9), Tien Noriel (4) and Cristin (1) were nowhere to be found.
Their fate was a source of concern for an entire country. Survival kits were even dropped by the Colombian army over the jungle on the weekend of May 20, as well as thousands of leaflets to tell them how to contact the rescue.
"There are a lot of assaults that can kill slowly"
"It's a real miracle, 40 days in the Amazon jungle is a big performance," confirms Denis Tribaudeau, organizer of survival courses for nearly 20 years. "After a few days, we are hungry, we become dehydrated. We must try to counter the assaults of nature, fleas, mosquitoes. There are a lot of aggressions that can kill slowly, "he decrypts.
Their young age was surely an asset according to Robin Boclet-Weller, founder of the Compagnie des Aventuriers: "It's quite impressive. But children use their instincts and do not spend their energy unnecessarily, unlike adults who are full of ideas in such circumstances."
¡Una alegría para todo el país! Aparecieron con vida los 4 niños que estaban perdidos hace 40 días en la selva colombiana. pic.twitter.com/cvADdLbCpm
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 9, 2023
They were also found 5 km from the crash site, "which proves that they simply zigzagged to find resources without really moving away," notes the specialist. But it was above all their education that allowed them to survive for such a long time.
Children helped by their knowledge of the jungle
The four children are from the Uitoto indigenous group, an indigenous people living in southeastern Colombia and northern Peru. "They live collectively in the jungle, they are people who are used to getting by," says Robin Boclet-Weller, also an anthropologist by training.
To feed themselves, they relied on traditional knowledge transmitted by their elders. "From a very young age, young people know how to differentiate between fruits and things not to touch and they have a broad visual knowledge of things that are dangerous. They know how to recognize what is edible from the age of 3-4 years," he continues.
According to him, children from an urban environment would probably not have survived in the same circumstances. "In particular, they had wrapped their feet in strips of cloth to avoid injury, because it is often by the feet that one is injured in the jungle. The fact that they know this shows the knowledge they have," says the specialist who has already lived for several months in the jungle.
The role of the primordial elder
According to the children's family, it was the 13-year-old older sister, Lesly, who was able to play a crucial role in the survival of the youngest. "She usually always took care of her siblings when their mother was working. She gave them flour, cassava bread, bush fruit," her grandmother said.
"A 13-year-old girl in the Amazon already has a lot of knowledge about the environment," says Robin Boclet-Weller. She managed to share this experience with the little ones, she must have been a huge moral support." The anthropologist explains that this is based on "the great solidarity between children" among indigenous peoples. They are "co-educators."
Robin Boclet-Weller, however, remains impressed by the fact that the very young Cristin was able to survive. "A baby doesn't have as many resources as an adult. We can survive three weeks on water and sugar. Beyond that, you need fat. A baby does not have these reservations. The children had to take care of her all the time."
A state of health still unknown
After being found by the emergency services of the Colombian army, the children were immediately transferred by medical plane to Bogota. "They are weak. Let the doctors make their prognosis," said the Colombian president, without giving more details on their state of health.
Caution remains required on the fate of the four children, especially after the communication error of the authorities in mid-May: the police had announced that they had located and found the children, before Gustavo Petro was forced to deny the information a few hours later.