Back to the Jungle
May 29, 2010 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Rochom P'ngieng, the feral "Cambodian Jungle Girl" who went missing in 1989 at the age of 8, and made news some three years ago (previously) when she surfaced after almost 20 years alone in the jungle, has fled back into the wild (according to news reports).
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 (17 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that whole story is kind of heartbreaking. I hope she's where she's happiest.
posted by nevercalm at 5:18 PM on May 29, 2010


Wasn't this an episode of Deep Space Nine?
posted by fatbird at 5:21 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I'm suspicious of the whole "ran away to the jungle" thing. Odds are this was actually a case of severe abuse/neglect with a fanciful cover story.
posted by happyroach at 5:27 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just spent an hour or so reading the story of Genie from the "previously" link. Jesus GHI Christ Walking on Lemonade, people can really be fucked up to kids.
posted by nevercalm at 6:13 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad she's free.
posted by The otter lady at 7:00 PM on May 29, 2010


The ligature marks on her hand and foot seem to point to her being held captive at one point; so do the relatively uncalloused feet one observer reported....and the refusal for a DNA test by the family make this all seem like no one really knows who she is or what the story actually is.
posted by availablelight at 7:02 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


fled back to the jungle after struggling to cope with modern life.

Whatever the case, I like this story best. Stories are a jungle.
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 PM on May 29, 2010


From one of the links: "John Ssebunya was found in the forest in Uganda, aged six, in 1989. He had fled a violent father, and for two years a group of African Grey monkeys accepted him as a peripheral member of their group."

Whoa.
posted by treeshar at 9:15 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given the state of affairs in the world these days, I can't say I blame her.
posted by bwg at 11:16 PM on May 29, 2010


Everything about this story seems a little off to me.
posted by doublehappy at 12:29 AM on May 30, 2010


Yeah, it's not very heartening to see how little the linked news outlets seem to have researched or even thought about this story. The trouble with the "she is our daughter, who escaped and lived in the wild for 19 years" story is that it doesn't even satisfy the barest requirements of plausibility.

I mean, to begin with: everyone says this woman crawled out of the jungle, starving, skinny, shaking, covered with dirt, having attempted to steal food from a worker's lunch pail without being detected. These are not the actions of a person who's spent two decades living totally alone in the jungle. A person who survived in the jungle for 19 years all alone would have some facilities, some expertise, some handy, identifiable skills which would stand out; she would have to be strong, fit, sharp, cautious, and alert. This woman appears to have been none of those things; she was tired, weak, confused, unable to cope, and reduced to attempting to steal food. What's more, from all accounts listed in these articles, in three full years this woman apparently never learned to speak more than a few words; no matter how alone they'd been, an adult human being alert and intelligent enough to survive one her own in a jungle for almost twenty years would be able to learn to speak with practice. This is a strong and in fact almost certain indicator that the lack of speech stems from mental disability or trauma rather than loneliness.

There's something poignant and somewhat saddening, I think, about a father who's convinced that a woman is his long-lost daughter because she has similar deep scars on her wrist. But scars have lots of causes, and it seems much more likely that being tied up caused them in this case. There are some unsettling little details about the situation – say for example this bit from the Guardian's article (emphasis mine):
One theory among sceptics is that the marks on her wrist are the result of years of being bound, common practice among peasant villagers in dealing with mentally ill people.
Ugh.

Who knows what really happened? All I know is: I don't believe that this woman survived for two decades alone in the jungle like this. There's almost certainly a much more frightening and unfortunate story.
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


A person who survived in the jungle for 19 years all alone [...] would be strong, fit, sharp, cautious, and alert

No, they would be sluggish, disease-ridden, and starving. Which is why people tend not to live in jungles, and why the ones who do are dying out.
posted by eeeeeez at 1:57 AM on May 30, 2010


eeeeeez: “No, they would be sluggish, disease-ridden, and starving. Which is why people tend not to live in jungles, and why the ones who do are dying out.”

Well, that was my point, really. She sounds like she was barely scraping by. It just doesn't seem likely that she just happened to be lucky enough to survive twenty years of barely scraping by, particularly in an area with a social framework that doesn't seem to frown on tying people up and keeping them isolated for long periods of time if they exhibit any mental illness.
posted by koeselitz at 2:03 AM on May 30, 2010


Every feral child story ends up being bullshit. Always.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:44 AM on May 30, 2010


What's more, from all accounts listed in these articles, in three full years this woman apparently never learned to speak more than a few words; no matter how alone they'd been, an adult human being alert and intelligent enough to survive one her own in a jungle for almost twenty years would be able to learn to speak with practice.

if the Genie case is any indication, there are definite developmental windows in which it is possible to learn language, and they close at puberty. Genie never did, despite years of intense teaching -- if I remember the case right, she managed to learn some words, though not many, and she never grasped the concept of syntax. and that was with years of working with very, very good teachers; something this woman never had the chance to do. so, actually, her linguistic ability fits the story.
posted by spindle at 10:18 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Run, Forest Girl! Run!
posted by castironskillet at 10:09 AM on May 31, 2010


Cambodia's missing 'jungle woman' found in toilet
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:14 AM on June 14, 2010


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