These children live isolated from human contact from a very young age. In some cases, they have been confined by people (or their own parents) and denied normal social interaction with other people for years; while in other cases, they are the result of child abandonment by the parents due to physical or intellectual impairment. It is also possible that these undomesticated children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Some are alleged to have been brought up by animals while some are said to have lived on their own. Until now, over one hundred incidents have been reported. Here are a few examples:
- Alex Mboweni – Male – found in 2009 in Kruger Park, South Africa – when found, he was 12 years old.
- Ionut Capraru – Male – found in 2005 in Romania – when found, he was 4 years old.
- Ethiopean Girl – found in 2005 in Bita Genet, Ethiopia – when found, she was 12 years old.
- Tsila Marcus – Female – found in 1942 in Rovno, Poland – when found, she was 4 years old.
So many other incidents are also known, wherein children have survived, either on their own or in the company of animals.
Feral Children Stories
Over a hundred wild children stories are known worldwide and some of them are quite harrowing and also heart breaking. They tell us about the confined or isolated children. The other famous examples include Amala and Kamala ― the wolf girls from India, Genie ― the ‘modern-day wild child’, and the mysterious Marie-Angelique Memmie LeBlanc ― the Wild Girl of Champagne.
Some children who were claimed as feral were actually autistic or mentally disabled. The ‘detailed diaries’ of Reverend Singh claimed to have discovered Amala and Kamala (who had been brought up since birth by wolves) in a forest in India. Later it was proved to be a fraud to obtain funds for his orphanage. Bruno Bettelheim states these girls were born mentally and physically disabled. Many cases of wild children lack authenticity and even recent ones such as John Ssebunya, are questioned by some.
Victor d’Aveyron is perhaps the most famous feral child of all. Victor was first found wandering in the woods near Saint Sernin sur Rance in southern France, at the end of the 18th century. When he was found, he was about 12 years old and he couldn’t speak. What exactly separated humans from animals was a topic for fierce debate then. Victor became famous because of Truffaut’s film L’Enfant Sauvage.
One modern case narrated by a direct witness, who confirms that he saw a young child in the company of monkeys for a period of a year is Saturday Mifune. Saturday’s full story appears in the expanded paperback edition of Kaspar Hausers Geschwister.
Feral Children Psychology
In reality, these children lack the basic social skills which they might have learned well, if their parents had brought them up normally. Social skills are usually learned in the process of enculturation. It is possible that you won’t be able to teach these children how to use a toilet and they may have trouble learning how to walk upright. They might display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. Such children often seem mentally unfit for our society and it is just impossible for them to learn a human language. Remarkably noticed insurmountable trouble in learning human language, after having been deprived of human company for so many years, is taken as evidence in favor of the Critical Period Hypothesis for language learning.
It is almost impossible to convert a feral child into a relatively normal citizen and a member of society in which we live. Some of them, who are isolated at a very young age, need close ‘child care’ throughout their lives. Discovery of wild children arouses media interest and such children tend to become the subject of lively scientific interest too. As the excitement fades away and it becomes clear that they cannot learn the culture and social behavior to meet society’s expectations; frustration can set in and they often spend the rest of their lives being passed from one caregiver to another. It has been observed that they die young, though their potential lifespan had they been left in the wilderness is difficult to know.
There is little scientific knowledge about feral children. The stories may seem fascinating, scientifically interesting, or even romantic, but being a feral child can never be the child’s own decision. These children were forced to live in horrifying conditions and it is completely against the laws of child safety. It isn’t much fun to be a feral child, wolf boy, or a wild girl. It is impossible to forget that all these children have been abandoned, neglected, or even cruelly abused.