A child dubbed “Mowgli Girl” after she was discovered in a forest in Northern India exhibiting signs of a feral upbringing was not raised by monkeys, Indian officials have said.
It had been reported the girl had been discovered by forest rangers, who said she had been living with monkeys in a nature reserve in Uttar Pradesh.
The girl was unable to speak or walk, and could only move around crawling on all fours.
One forest ranger told The Associated Press that “the girl was naked and was very comfortable in the company of monkeys”.
“When they tried to rescue the girl, they were chased away by the monkeys,” he added.
However, forestry officers have since said it would have been impossible for the girl to go undiscovered for so many years in a forest which is regularly patrolled.
“It’s not possible that a girl could spend years in the forest, and no member of staff or hundreds of cameras installed for security and animal census notices her”, regional officer Gyan Praksh Singh said in a statement.
Indian authorities now believe the girl, who appears to have severe mental and physical disabilities, may have been abandoned by her carers.
Dr DK Singh, the chief medical officer of the hospital where she has been receiving treatment told The Guardian: “In India, people do not prefer a female child and she is mentally not sound, so all the more [evidence] she was left there.”
Since being admitted to hospital, the girl has learned to walk standing upright and has been eating solid food.
The rapid improvement in her condition appears to indicate she was raised by humans rather than animals, doctors say.
“She is still not able to speak, but understands whatever you tell her and even smiles,” Dr Singh said.
Indian police are searching for the child’s family members, but no one has so far come forward.