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Custody battle over four children who survived 40 days in Amazon jungle

Colombia's President Gustavo Petro visits the children in hospital
Colombia's President Gustavo Petro visits the children in hospital Copyright AP/Cesar Carrion (by the Colombian Presidential Press Office)
Copyright AP/Cesar Carrion (by the Colombian Presidential Press Office)
By Euronews with agencies
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Colombia's child protection agency is determining who should have custody of the four 'miracle' children after their maternal grandparents accused their father of domestic abuse.

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They were found last Friday, hungry and dehydrated, and were airlifted out of the jungle to a military hospital in the nation's capital, Bogota, where they are currently recovering.

Aged between one and thirteen, they are members of the Huitoto indigenous group. Their grandfather has told local media that it was their knowledge of edible fruit and seeds that had been key to their survival.

They are reportedly recovering well and are expected to spend a few more weeks in hospital, a period during which Colombia’s child protection agency will interview family members to determine who should care for them.

"The children are protected, cared for, and loved so that their health can improve. Afterwards we will see what measures the family ombudsman will adopt," said Adriana Velasquez, Deputy Director General of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF).

On Sunday, their maternal grandfather, Narciso Mucutuy, accused Manuel Ranoque who is the father of the two youngest, of beating his daughter, Magdalena Mucuty. He told reporters they would hide in the forest when fighting broke out.

The head of the ICBF, Astrid Caceres, said that a caseworker had been assigned to the children at the request of their maternal grandparents.

“We are going to talk, investigate, learn a little about the situation,” she said, adding that the agency had not ruled out that their mother may have experienced domestic abuse.

While Ranoque, in a media interview, acknowledged there had been trouble at home, he said it was a private family matter and not “gossip for the world”.

When asked whether he had attacked his wife, he replied: “Verbally, sometimes, yes. Physically, very little. We had more verbal fights.”

He said he has not been allowed to see the two oldest children at the hospital. The ICBF declined to comment on why that was the case.

Relatives and officials have praised the oldest child, Lesly, for guiding her younger siblings through the 40 days in the jungle, which teems with snakes and poisonous frogs and plants.

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