Colombia’s four missing children found alive after 40 days in the jungle

‘Today they are the children of peace and the children of Colombia”, said President Gustavo Petro, underscoring that the fact they were from an indigenous family helped them navigate the surrounding dangers

Niños perdidos en la selva de Colombia
In this photo released by Colombia's Armed Forces, soldiers and Indigenous men tend to the four brothers who were missing after a deadly plane crash.AP
Juan Diego Quesada

Four young siblings lost for 40 days in the Colombian jungle following a plane crash that killed their mother have been found alive, as confirmed by President Gustavo Petro. The children are in good health despite the dangers they faced in an area full of jaguars, deadly plants and poisonous snakes.

“Today we have had a magical day, full of joys. We are getting closer to touching peace, in the agreement that is moving forward with the ELN,” said Petro after returning from Havana, where he has just signed a ceasefire with the ELN guerrilla. “And now I come back and the first news is that indeed the indigenous communities that were conducting the search and the military forces, jointly, found the children 40 days later. They were alone. They achieved an example of total survival. It will go down in history. Those children are today the children of peace and the children of Colombia.”

In a tweet, Petro attached a photograph that served as proof of life of the siblings. In another image that is now going around the world, the children are surrounded by the military who found them, wrapped in thermal blankets. They are showing signs of malnutrition. One of the soldiers is holding the baby in his arms.

Military personnel take out one of four children from a plane on Saturday.
Military personnel take out one of four children from a plane on Saturday. John Vizcaino (AP)

The Colombian military took the children out of the jungle with a helicopter that could not land and hovered 60 meters in the air. They were lifted into the aircraft with harnesses and a pulley. The height of the trees and the darkness made the operation difficult. The children looked dumbfounded, as if they were living an unreal moment. The authorities said they ate assiduously from the survival kits that the rescuers dropped from the air.

The children are Lesly Jacobo Bonbaire (13), Solecni Ranoque Mucutuy (9), Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy (4) and Cristian Neryman Ranoque Mucutuy, who turned one while authorities were searching for them. When they were found they were dehydrated and their bodies were full of mosquito bites, but authorities reported that they were in general good health.

The fact that they survived a plane crash was already improbable, and even more so that all alone, with no help from anyone, all four would manage to stay alive for this long in a jungle where it rains 16 hours a day and is plunged in near darkness by the dense foliage.

President Petro noted that the fact that they were from an indigenous community had increased their chances of survival. The children, especially the two older ones, were accustomed to going into the jungle and recognizing the plants they could eat without poisoning themselves.

The children belong to the Uitoto indigenous people and live near the Cahuinarí river in Caquetá. On May 1, the small plane in which they were traveling with three adults, including their mother, crashed in the middle of the Amazon jungle on the Apaporis river as they were on their way to meet their father at a different location.

No more was heard from the occupants until 17 days later, when indigenous trackers found the wrecked plane. Inside were the bodies of the three adults, but there was no trace of the children.

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