See below for an update to this story.
A young girl was discovered in January living with monkeys in India, and police have yet to identify her. Locals have dubbed her “Mowgli girl” because of the similarities with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a story about the boy Mowgli, who was brought up by wolves. The girl is believed to be anywhere from 10 to 12 years old.
The child was naked, emaciated, and unable to speak when she was found in a remote nature preserve in northern India. She behaved like a monkey, crawling around on her knees and elbows, eating food off the floor with her mouth, and screeching to communicate.
“Mowgli Girl” was taken to a hospital in Bahraich, a town in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India, where she is learning to walk upright and eat with her hands.
“She is still not able to speak, but understands whatever you tell her and even smiles,” said D.K. Singh, chief medical superintendent of the government-run hospital.
Some woodcutters spotted the girl roaming with monkeys, police officer Dinesh Tripathi told The Associated Press on Thursday. They alerted police.
“They said the girl was naked and was very comfortable in the company of monkeys. When they tried to rescue the girl, they were chased away by the monkeys,” the officer said.
She was rescued later by a police officer in the Katarniya Ghat forest range. “When he called the girl, the monkeys attacked him but he was able to rescue the girl. He sped away with her in his police car while the monkeys gave chase,” Tripathi said.
Inspector Ram Avtar Singh, from Motipur station in Bahraich, told the Daily Mail “she was terrified of us.”
He said she was surrounded by three monkeys and had wounds on her elbow and leg.
“She looked weak and was very hungry. We gave her some food to eat. She looked miserable. If we hadn’t rescued her she could have been eaten by other animals,” Singh said.
Doctors say she does not appear to recognize any language and is still fearful of humans and prone to bouts of anger and violence. Although she has been taught to walk, she prefers to crawl on all fours, according to medics.
Police say she will likely spend her childhood in an Indian orphanage because no one has claimed her.
UPDATE Saturday 9:33 p.m. EST:
Officials and doctors close to “Mowgli Girl” are now saying that the child suffers from mental and physical disabilities and was likely recently abandoned by her caregivers.
The girl, said to be closer to the age of 8, was actually found on a roadside near the forest, not deep in the wilderness, according to JP Singh, the district chief forestry officer. He said there were monkeys in her vicinity, but his rangers “never found this girl living with monkeys.”
“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.”
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.
The chief medical officer of the hospital in Bahraich, where the girl has been receiving treatment since she was found in January, said it was difficult to “say exactly when she was abandoned”.
“In India, people do not prefer a female child and she is mentally not sound,” DK Singh said. “So all the more [evidence] she was left there.”