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German-born, London-based photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten captures in heartbreaking (and fascinating!) detail the circumstances of 15 children who survived in the wild without culture,
community or human care. Inspired by Lynne Barrett-Lee's "The Girl With No Name," the real-life story of a South American girl living alone in the jungle with capuchin monkeys, Fullerton-Batten's series, "Feral Children" is both beautiful, tragic and truly unimaginable.
Fullerton-Batten researched tales of feral children, spoke with experts on the topic and met with three different former feral children who live in Fiji, Uganda and Ukraine. After her deep dive into research, she cast the children and curated the environment in which they posed. She also photographed live animals to include in the images.
"As a mother of two young boys I was appalled and
intrigued in turn the more I learned about these cases," she said.
"My initial reactions were to question how parents could lose and, especially, neglect their child. My maternal instinct went into overdrive when I
considered how these babies, toddlers and young people experienced their lives
alone or in the company of wild animals.
The Leopard Boy, India, 1912
"The boy child was 2 years old when he was taken by a leopardess in 1912. Three years later, a hunter killed the leopardess and found three cubs, one of which was the now 5-year-old boy. He was returned to his family in the small village in India. When first caught, he would only squat and ran on all fours as fast as an adult man could do upright. His knees were covered with hard callouses, his toes were bent upright almost at right angles to his instep, and his palms, toe- and thumb-pads were covered with a tough, horny skin. He bit and fought with everyone who approached him, and caught and ate the village fowl raw. He could not speak, uttering only grunts and growls. Later he had learned to speak and walked more upright. Sadly he became gradually blind from cataracts. However, this was not caused by his experiences in the jungle, but was an illness common in the family."
Marina Chapman, Colombia, 1959
Marina was kidnapped in 1954, when she was 5, from a remote South American village and left by her kidnappers in the jungle. She lived with a family of small, capuchin monkeys for five years before she was discovered by hunters. She ate berries, roots and bananas dropped by the monkeys. She slept in holes in trees and walked on all fours. One time, she got bad food poisoning. An elderly monkey led her to a pool of water and forced her to drink, she vomited and began to recover. She was befriended by the young monkeys and learned from them to climb trees and what was safe to eat. She would sit in the trees, play and groom with them.
Marina lost her language completely by the time she was rescued by hunters, who sold her into a brothel. Eventually, she escaped and lived as a street urchin. Next she was enslaved by a mafia-style family before being saved by a neighbor, who sent her to Bogotá to live with her daughter and son-in-law. They adopted Marina alongside their five natural children. When Marina reached her mid-teens, she was offered a job as a housekeeper and nanny by another family member. The family with Marina moved to Bradford, Yorksire in the U.K. in 1977, where she still lives today. She married and had children. Marina and her younger daughter, Vanessa James, co-authored a book about her feral experiences and those afterwards.
John Ssebunya (The Monkey Boy), Uganda, 1991
"John ran away from home in 1988 when he was 3 years old after seeing his father murder his mother. He fled into the jungle where he lived with monkeys. He was captured in 1991, now about 6 years old, and placed in an orphanage. When he was cleaned up it was found that his entire body was covered in hair. His diet had consisted mainly of roots, nuts, sweet potatoes and cassava, and he had developed a severe case of intestinal worms, found to be over half a metre long. He had calluses on his knees from walking like a monkey. John has learned to speak and human ways. He was found to have a fine singing voice and is famous for singing and touring in the U.K. with the 20-strong Pearl of Africa children's choir."
Kamala and Amala, India, 1920
"Kamala, 8 years old, and Amala, 12, were found in 1920 in a wolves' den. It is one of the most famous cases of feral children. Pre-advised, they were found by a reverend, Joseph Singh, who hid in a tree above the cave where they had been seen. When the wolves left the cave, he saw two figures looking out of it. The girls were hideous looking, ran on all fours and didn't look human. He soon captured the girls. When first caught, the girls slept curled up together, growled, tore off their clothing, ate nothing but raw meat and howled. Physically deformed, their tendons and the joints in their arms and legs were shortened. They had no interest in interacting with humans. But, their hearing, sight and sense of smell was exceptional. Amala died the following year after their capture. Kamala eventually learned to walk upright and say a few words, but died in 1929 of kidney failure, 17 years old."
Madina, Russia, 2013
"Madina lived with dogs from birth until she was 3 years old, sharing their food, playing with them and sleeping with them when it was cold in winter. When social workers found her in 2013, she was naked, walking on all fours and growling like a dog. Madina's father had left soon after her birth. Her mother, 23 years old, took to alcohol. She was frequently too drunk to look after her child and often disappeared. She would frequently invite local alcoholics to visit the house. Her alcoholic mother would sit at the table to eat while her daughter gnawed bones on the floor with the dogs. Madina would run away to a local playground when her mother got angry, but the other children wouldn't play with her as she could hardly speak and would fight with everyone. So dogs became her best and only friends.
"Doctors reported that the Madina is mentally and physically healthy despite her ordeal. There is a good chance that she will have a normal life once she has learned to speak more in line with a child of her age."
Shamdeo, India, 1972
"Shamdeo, a boy aged about four years old, was discovered in a forest in India in 1972. He was playing with wolf cubs. His skin was very dark, and he had sharpened teeth, long hooked fingernails, matted hair and calluses on his palms, elbows and knees. He was fond of chicken-hunting, would eat earth and had a craving for blood. He bonded with dogs. He was finally weaned off eating raw meat, never talked, but learnt some sign language. In 1978 he was admitted to Mother Theresa's Home for the Destitute and Dying in Lucknow, where he was re-named Pascal. He died in February 1985."
The top image is Lobo Wolf Girl, Mexico, 1845-1852. "In 1845 a girl was seen running on all fours with a pack of wolves attacking a herd of goats. A year later she was seen with the wolves eating a goat. She was captured but escaped. In 1852, she was seen yet again suckling two wolf cubs, but she ran into the woods. She was never seen again.")