Bello And John - The Boys Who Were Raised By Primates

12th March 2012

About Bello

Date found: 1996
Age when found: 2
Location: Nigeria
Years in the wild: 1
Animals: chimps
 
Bello, the Nigerian Chimp Boy was found in 1996, at the age of about two. Both mentally and physically disabled, he had probably been abandoned by his parents at the age of about six months, a common practice with disabled children among the Fulani, a nomadic people who range great distances over the west African Sahel region.
 
Believed to have been adopted and raised by chimpanzees, Bello was found with a chimpanzee family in the Falgore forest, 150 km south of Kano in northern Nigeria. When the story reached the news agencies some six years later in 2002, Bello had been living at the Tudun Maliki Torrey home in Kano.
 
When first discovered, Bello walked like a chimpanzee, using his legs but dragging his arms on the ground. He would leap about at night in the dormitory, disturbing the other children, smashing and throwing things. Six years later Bello was much calmer, but would still leap around in a chimpanzee-like fashion, make chimpanzee-like noises, and clap his cupped hands over his head repeatedly. Bello died in 2005.

About John

Date found: 1991
Age when found: 6
Location: Uganda
Years in the wild: 3
Animals: monkeys

John Ssebunya was born in the mid 1980s, but ran away from home (probably aged around three) after seeing his mother murdered by his own father. It is generally accepted that John Ssebunya was cared for at least to some extent by green African (vervet) monkeys while in the jungle. John was found by a tribeswoman or girl (called Millie) in 1991, hiding in a tree. She returned with menfolk from the village and, as is so often the case, not only did John resist capture but also his adoptive family came to his defence, throwing sticks at the villagers.

Initial reports suggest John Ssebunya’s entire body was covered with hair called hypertrichosis. When he defecated, he excreted worms over half a metre long. Once captured and cleaned up — he was covered in scars and wounds, with knees scarred from crawling — he was identified as John Ssebunya. He was given by Millie to the care of Paul and Molly Wasswa, who run a charitable foundation for orphans. He couldn’t talk or cry initially, but has subsequently learned to speak. This suggests that he may have learned some speech before his stay in the wild.

John now not only talks but also sings, and tours with the Pearl of Africa children’s choir. John was the subject of the BBC documentary Living Proof, screened on 13 October 1999.

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