Native American children survived the plane crash in the Amazon because of their survival skills and knowledge of the forest. The crash killed all three adults on board, including the children’s mother. The four children, ages one to 13, survived the jungle for 40 days after the crash before being found by rescuers. They are recovering at Bogota Central Military Hospital and are in stable condition.
According to the Indigenous Peoples Organization of the Colombian Amazon, the children were able to survive because of their survival skills, which they learned at an early age. They knew how to get food and water in the forest, as well as how to protect themselves from dangerous animals. In addition, the older girl, who was “belligerent,” took care of her younger siblings by giving them fruit from the forest.
Carlos Perez, a professor of rainforest ecology at the University of East Anglia, said that children from Amazon indigenous communities “grow up very early” and learn basic survival skills in the forest at an early age. He noted that to outsiders, “the interior of the Amazon jungle seems much more hostile than it really is, especially if you come from those areas.”
In the part of the Amazon where the children survived, “there are about 80 different species of snakes, but only five of them are poisonous,” and the natives can tell the difference. Getting water was not a problem, given the streams in the Amazon.
According to Colombia’s Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez Gomez, the older child’s “leadership and courage” and her “knowledge of the jungle” helped the other children survive. The children’s maternal grandmother, Fatima Valencia, said the nine-year-old and four-year-old boys were “adept” at knowing the forest.
The search for the children and the dog continued for weeks. More than 100 troops and volunteers participated in the search. The plane was flying from the southern city of Araracuar and disappeared on May 1. The bodies of the pilot, mother and another adult were later found at the crash site, but the children were nowhere to be found. They were sitting in the back of the plane, which was less damaged by the crash.