In early 2017 a group of woodcutters were working in a forest in Uttar Pradesh in the north of India. And they certainly never expected to make a discovery that would create international headlines.
Yes, the workers spotted something very unusual deep in the Katarniaghat forest. There was a group of monkeys nearby, but what really grabbed their attention was what, or who, was accompanying them.
In fact, among the group of monkeys there appeared to be a little girl. According to The Independent, the woodcutters reportedly said she was naked and “very comfortable in the company of monkeys.” Naturally, they attempted to approach the girl.
It soon became clear, however, that she had grown close to the animals because they protected her from the woodcutters. “When they tried to rescue the girl, they were chased away by the monkeys,” said a local police officer.
The girl, whom they estimated to be between the ages of 10 and 12, was very thin and dirty. It was clear to see that she was in bad health too, with obvious injuries visible on her body.
The police therefore became involved in the attempt to rescue her from the forest. However, the monkeys continued to attack anyone who came close to the girl. The police officers eventually, though, managed to separate her from the animals.
She was then put in the back of a police car, which the protective monkeys chased down the road. It seemed obvious, then, that the little girl had been living with the animals for quite some time.
Still, once she was safe in Bahraich District Hospital, doctors were able to fully examine her. They soon learned, though, that the girl was unable to speak. Instead of talking, she would simply scream if anyone came near her. In fact, the medical staff found that there were a lot of similarities between her and the monkeys.
“The way she moved, even her eating habits, were like that of an animal,” Dr. D.K. Singh told the Associated Press. The girl wasn’t even able to walk on two feet. Instead, she moved about on her elbows and knees.
What’s more, the young girl threw her meals on the floor before eating them. She often didn’t even use her hands to feed herself; sometimes she chose to eat directly from the floor using just her mouth.
Yet although this monkey-like conduct made it harder for doctors to assess and treat the girl, they nevertheless made efforts to introduce her to human society again. In the process, they tested her for various conditions.
Doctors consequently found that she had both mental and physical disabilities. And this raised suspicions that she might have been abandoned as a small child when her parents realized that she was disabled. This theory has yet to be proven, however.
In contrast, some officials thought that the girl must have been living in the forest ever since she was born. But this too has not yet been verified. Indeed, such theories will be very hard to prove without her parents confirming what happened.
Police tried to reach out to the parents of the girl by placing adverts in the media and carrying out interviews with the local press – but still no one claimed the girl. Until, that is, one day in April 2017.
Yes, a couple recently came forward to say that the little girl was theirs. They claimed that their daughter had vanished while they were at a market, just one year earlier. The alleged parents, Ramzan and Nazma Shah, said they did report her disappearance to police at the time.
But they added that the police had been unhelpful and even asked the couple for money. Mr. Shah reportedly distributed missing posters, but after no breakthrough was made, the couple apparently resigned themselves to the terrible idea that she had been kidnapped or had died.
Meanwhile, the girl, who has been nicknamed “Mowgli” after the famous Jungle Book story, was moved to a unit for disabled children. Doctors have said that she has started to walk on two feet.
However, when a visitor who claimed to be related to the girl approached her, she “did not respond to seeing him,” according to the hospital’s founder. So there are clearly still some big question marks surrounding the girl’s past.
Mr Shah and his wife are so adamant that “Mowgli” is their daughter that they are trying to prove it scientifically. Indeed, The Independent reported that the Shahs are raising money in order to pay for a DNA test.
Whether or not the girl truly is the couple’s daughter, though, most would agree that the mere fact that she is now out of the forest and being cared for properly is a success in its own right. Doctors continue to report further positive improvements in her condition, but there’s sure to be a long road ahead for this little girl before she’s fully integrated into human society.