A young boy that was reared by apes in the dense African jungles of Uganda, until being found — scavenging for food in the company of a colony of African Green monkeys — by a tribeswoman in 1991.
John was born in the mid80s. At the tender age of two, three, or four (nobody knows for sure, since due to the unrest at that time in Uganda many official records were lost), after witnessing his mother's murder by his own father, the boy ran away to the jungle. A local colony of African Green monkeys came across the toddler, adopting him as one of their own and, by doing so, saving his live. The boy learnt their mannerisms, became adept at climbing trees and lived on a diet of fruit, nuts, roots and berries for the next three or four years.
When first found, the boy and his pals (the monkeys) made a lot of racket and hurled sticks and other projectiles at the would-be saviors. Finally the villagers scared off the animals, and collected the boy as he was hiding up a tree. He was covered with dirt and had long hair all over his body but for the buttocks. He also had very long nails, and his eyes and body were full of fleas. After a bath, shave and grooming, the youngster was identified by a villager as John Ssabunnya, who disappeared from the village years before, after his parents’ death (his father hung himself).
The boy was then taken to the Kamuzinda Christian Orphanage, 100 miles from the Ugandan capital Kampala, where he lived with the family of the orphanage manager. For the next few years John learned how to speak and to behave in a human manner, being able to tell his incredible ordeal himself.
Hillary Cook, a 56 year-old British dentist who was working in Uganda at the time, meet John and passed the story along to the BBC, which verified its veracity by going to Uganda and talking to all of the witnesses and parties involved on his rescue, education and reintegration to society.
Most remarkably, the BBC arranged a 'test' to see if the lad was for real or just a very good liar. Since his capture, the youngster had had no contact of any kind with the monkeys. John was then taken to the ‘Uganda Wildlife Education Centre’, where an imminent primatologist, Debbie Cox, worked with a group of monkeys supposedly of the same species of John’s benefactors. The expert was skeptical, but nonetheless John was integrated with a group of visitant children, who immediately stared harassing the animals by yelling, squeking and throwing pebbles at them. John’s attitude was completely different. Staying crouched and reaching an open hand towards the monkeys, he proceeded with a complicated routine of oblique glances and guttural sounds, but somehow harmonious. All of the people present were by now silently observing the scene in awe. In less than 2 hours John had been completely accepted by the simian community, and it was happily interacting with them, compelling Debbie Cox to declare that he certainly had spent at least two years living among monkeys in the jungle.
John's remarkable story was featured in “Living Proof”, a television documentary screened on the BBC, October 13, 1999.
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