The news this week of the rescue of the four children, ages 13, 9, 4, and 11 months, who survived in the depths of the Amazon jungle for 40 days after their small airplane crashed (killing the pilot, their mother, and another adult passenger) is nothing less than miraculous.
This part of the Amazon in Colombia is so remote that it took two weeks for rescuers just to locate their plane and then five more weeks to track down the children.
The children are members of an indigenous tribe who teach their children about the wonders — and the dangers — of the jungle. According to a statement from the Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon, the children’s survival was “a sign of the knowledge and relationship with the natural environment of life, which is taught and learned from the mother’s womb and is practiced from a very early age.”
The childrens’ maternal grandmother said that the eldest child, a 13-year-old girl, had a “warrior”-like nature and their grandfather said the 9- and 4-year-old brothers were very “skilled” at walking through the forest.
They knew what fruits and seeds they could eat and which ones to avoid, how to capture water, and were aware of the many types of venomous snakes that live in the jungle. During the night, they slept in tree trunks to avoid predators.
Needless to say, as one expert noted, “Four Western kids of the same age would have died” there. In fact, we’d add that everyone reading this column would have died in the jungle, save perhaps for someone who has undergone wilderness training in the military. The childrens’ story of their survival illustrates how far removed we in the so-called “civilized world” are from nature — most of us can’t even avoid poison ivy or ticks in our own backyards. It also should make us ask this question: Are we better off with the life we have created, or have we sown the seeds of our own demise by our intentional destruction of the natural environment?