Encounters in the wild

Encounters in the wild

Feral characters like Mowgli and Tarzan project an exotic, familial co-existence capable between animals and humans within a fictional frame. But such cases in reality have more dimensions than the endearing care animals show towards children in the wilderness. One comes face to face with a whole range of human nature, including callousness and love, as the show Raised Wild records upon investigation.

Mary-Ann Ochota, an anthropologist and investigator, has picked up two scents to follow: the cases of ‘the bird boy of Fiji’, a lad who has grown up with chickens in a coop. And ‘the monkey boy of Uganda’, a child raised by a tribe of monkeys.

The essential question to answer here would be why the children ended up with animals as foster parents? The truth perhaps lies in the challenge of locating them, given that the cases are more than two decades old. And time has also enabled a good blend of facts and hearsays about them. This show also doubles as a guide to a step-by-step enquiry; it is quite clear that it is a staged investigation, with research done well in advance. So, Mary-Ann takes us on a series of enquiries with one mission — ‘To separate facts from fiction’. In other words, to collect records and meet eye-witnesses.

An investigation lacking facts begins with a theory. In the first case, she lands in the Fiji capital, Suva, and places a newspaper ad asking for information about the boy. As a response, two eye witnesses lead her to the origin of the boy’s story — his home.

They theorise, drawing from their memory, that a boy named Sujit, no more than two years old, is left in the coop under the house during day time for one-and-a-half years, as his dysfunctional family isolated him from his five siblings, suspecting evil in him.

Mary-Ann points out that in the land of Fiji, the practices of black magic and witchcraft are alive. This highlights the dire actions of enthographic beliefs carried out in the society.

A newspaper report (dated 1982) talks about an abandoned boy on a road, pecking at food and clucking like a chicken, who has been rescued by an old-age home. It’s good news that unfurls more troubling questions. Is he alive at all? Has the damage he suffered as a boy continued into adulthood?

Another casualty of human neglect is the ‘monkey boy of Uganda’. The investigation starts in the humid land of Entebbe, a city on the mend after a bloody civil war in the early 1990s. Mary-Ann is on the look out for the woman who spotted a ‘monster’ that aped monkeys in the Bombo area! But she gets second-hand information from the woman’s divorced husband about a rescued feral boy, who carried a coat of fur over his body and an unruly behaviour.

The most believed theory about the boy’s background comes from a woman who once lived near his home. The boy (John Ssebunya), four years then, along with his mother, is abused by his alcoholic father. Soon, his mother dies and he is solely at the receiving end of his father’s rage. The escape route leads him straight to the dense forests, home to vervets, a common species of monkeys. The forest becomes his home for the next four years.

The heart-warming revelation is that both of them are now living amidst a cultured society. Sujit now is a shy man of 27, who prefers only the company of the caring psychologist. The host also tracks down John, who is under the wings of his guardian. John plays street music and is more social than Sujit, but they still carry the evidence of their formative years gone wrong, behaving like the dear animals with whom they grew up.

Perhaps the show leaves us a lesson or two about tolerance and acceptance, as John recalls the big vervets feeding him their fruits and keeping him company at nights, as a part of their group. Catch the show on Sundays at 9 pm, Animal Planet.

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