President Gustavo Petro announced on Friday that the four Indigenous children, who had been missing for over a month in the Colombian Amazon rainforest following a small plane crash, have been located alive.
“A joy for the whole country! The 4 children who were lost 40 days ago in the Colombian jungle were found alive,” Petro wrote on Twitter.
In his post, he shared a photograph capturing a group of adults, some clad in military fatigues, tending to the children who were seated on tarps amidst the thick foliage of the forest.
“They are weak. Let’s let the doctors make their assessment,” Petro told the press in Bogota.
The children, belonging to the Uitoto Indigenous group, aged 13, nine, four, and one, had been navigating the Amazon rainforest alone since May 1 when the Cessna 206 they were traveling in crashed. Tragically, the bodies of three accompanying adults, including their mother, the pilot, and a relative, were discovered at the crash site by the army.
Since then, an extensive search operation involving 160 soldiers and 70 Indigenous individuals with profound knowledge of the jungle has been underway to locate the young ones, capturing worldwide interest.
Despite the presence of jaguars, snakes, other predators, and armed drug smuggling groups, authorities remained hopeful as they discovered ongoing clues such as footprints, a diaper, and partially eaten fruit, indicating that they were on the right path.
Concerned that the children might continue wandering and become increasingly difficult to locate, the air force released 10,000 flyers into the forest. These flyers contained instructions in Spanish and the children’s Indigenous language, urging them to stay in one place. The leaflets also provided survival tips, and the military dropped food parcels and bottled water to support their well-being.
In addition to these efforts, rescuers broadcasted a recorded message from the children’s grandmother, appealing to them to remain stationary. The Huitoto children, who deeply understand hunting, fishing, and gathering, are well-acquainted with the jungle, as revealed by their grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, in an interview with AFP.
“Today we have had a magical day,” Petro told the media upon his return from Cuba, where he signed a six-month truce with Colombia’s last active guerrilla group, the ELN.
“Getting closer and attaining peace in the agreement that is moving forward with the ELN… And now I return, and the first news is that indeed the Indigenous communities that were in the search and the military forces found the children 40 days later,” he said.
“They were alone, they made it on their own. An example of absolute survival that will go down in history,” he added.
After initially announcing that the children had been located alive 17 days following their disappearance, Petro retracted the statement the next day, admitting that he had received inaccurate information.
However, on Friday, the children’s grandfather, Valencia, verified to AFP that the children had indeed been found.
“I need a flight or a helicopter to go and get them urgently,” he said.