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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Feral girl

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian police have taken into care a 5-year-old girl who has been shut up in a flat in the company of cats and dogs for her entire life, police said on Wednesday.

The girl, who lived in the Eastern Siberian city of Chita, could not speak Russian and acted like an dog when police took her into care.

"For five years, the girl was 'brought up' by several dogs and cats and had never been outside," a police statement said.

"The unwashed girl was dressed in filthy clothes, had the clear attributes of an animal and jumped at people," it said.

The flat had no heat, water or sewage system.

A police spokeswoman said the girl, known as Natasha, is being monitored by psychologists in an orphanage. Her mother was being questioned but her father has not been found yet.

She appears to be about 2-years-old, though her real age is five, refuses to eat with a spoon and has taken on many of the gestures of the animals with which she lived, police said.

"When carers leave the room, the girl jumps at the door and barks," the police said.

Feral children, the stuff of folklore all over the world, usually exhibit the behavior of the animals with whom they have had closest contact, a condition known as the Mowgli Syndrome after the fictional child from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" who was raised by wolves in the jungle.

Such children have usually built strong ties with the animals with whom they lived and find the transition to normal human contact extremely traumatic.

The story leaves me wondering:

How did this girl survive five winters in an unheated apartment in Siberia? Did she have any siblings? How were they treated? What was she fed? How much contact did she have with humans when she was fed? What will become of her? Why did her parents do this to her? Are they semi-retarded, or just cruel? What will be done to the parents?

Sadly, from what I remember about the few other reported cases of feral children, they never grow up to be remotely close to normal. Earlier on this blog there was a post about the backgrounds of children who grow up to be sociopaths ( This would certainly seem to be a case where the girl was destined for that outcome. She certainly couldn't have bonded with either of her parents, and at age five, it's too late for her to really do so with any new parental figure. Is it possible that she somehow bonded with some of the animals in a way that would allow for any sort of normal bonding with humans later on?

Tarzan of the Apes was supposed to have been brought up by great apes, yet still turned into an English gentleman when given the right training later in life. (Edgar Rice Burroughs was even more a believer in genetic destiny than E.O. Wilson.) But the Tarzan series was about as realistic as Burroughs' other books (which include "John Carter of Mars" and "At The Earth's Core.")

It's hard not to feel sorry for this girl. The odds are overwhelming that she will never have a normal relationship with another human being. And if she does turn out to be sociopath-like in her inability to bond, you can hardly blame her. It almost gives you some sympathy for other sociopaths; this girl's background is a sort of metaphor for most of theirs. Unlike them, however, she won't be able to do much harm, as she will not be able to blend in with the rest of the population the way they can. So our sympathy can be unalloyed.


Anonymous said...

Another one in Russia.


Anonymous said...

Another one in Russia.


John Craig said...

Thank you, that's interesting. Is the Sun reliable? I took a look around it, they did have several other news items I recognized. It actually makes me wonder if the article I reprinted was a hoax of some sort; it was by Reuters, on Yahoo, but it's always possible for a hoax to get by. I'll assume it's true for now.