Colombian military searches for heroic dog who helped find children in the Amazon jungle
With his powerful snout and his pointy ears, Wilson became a national hero in Colombia when he helped the military find four Indigenous children who survived a plane crash and were lost in the Amazon jungle for 40 days.
Pawprints from the military-trained search dog led trackers to the children earlier this month. But the Belgian Shepherd went missing during the search and is now himself the target of a sophisticated rescue operation that started soon after the four young survivors where flown on a helicopter to Bogota.
The Colombian military says it has left 70 soldiers in the dense swath of jungle around the crash site to look for its beloved search dog. And commanders have vowed not to leave the remote area until soldiers return home with the star pup.
It’s been a month since Wilson got lost in the rainforest, and its hard to know if the two-year-old dog is still alive. But the sniffer dog’s rescue would lift the spirits of many Colombians, and add a heartwarming exclamation point to a survival story that already has captivated the world.
“For us it was an honor that our canine helped to find those children” said Sgt. Luis Fernando Seña, the commander of the canine school where Wilson was trained for 14 months in Bogota.
“It would be great news for the country, and for our children if he can be found,” Seña said.
Wilson graduated from the canine academy in February, and was taken to the Tolemaida air force base, where he joined Colombia’s special forces. Wilson and four more sniffer dogs, were taken to the rainforest in May, to find the single engine Cessna plane that had crashed into the rainforest, carrying the four children and three adults who later were found dead.
When the small plane was found, and the search party realized that the children could still be alive, Wilson’s handler gave him some clothes to sniff, to track down the kids.
The sniffer dog got separated form the search party on May 18, after he sped off into the forest following a scent. Ten days later, the military found footprints of the children next to his pawprints. Those clues helped them to get closer to the area where the children were found on June 9, said Gen. Pedro Sanchez, who led the rescue effort.
“The children spoke to us, and confirmed that the dog was with them for two or three days” Sanchez, told Colombia’s W radio.
The children are still recovering in hospital and have not spoken to the press. But recently, 13 year-old Lesly Mucutuy, who is the oldest child in the group, drew a picture of the rainforest that included a black and coffee colored dog, which looks like Wilson.
Last week, Colombia’s military said that it helipcoptered two female dogs in heat to the area around the crash site, in the hopes of luring Wilson toward the search party. Food has also been placed for the dog at several points around the crash site as well as clothes belonging to his handler, hoping that their scent can guide Wilson back to safety.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s name has become a popular hashtag on social media sites, with his fans posting messages that urge the military to continue the search. The dog’s story has led national news shows. A spiritual coach who claims she can speak with animals, recently posted a viral video on TikTok, where she urges her followers to thank Wilson for the job he did, and “send light” to the dog, so that he can find his way home — — if that is what his soul desires.
At the canine academy in Bogota, Wilson’s comrades said that the dog is highly trained, and accustomed to overcoming physical obstacles. But ultimately it will have to rely on its instincts to survive.
“He is very energetic, and always stood out because of his strength, his energy and his strong temperament” said Elvis Porras, a trainer who helped to raise Wilson, and worked with the dog until he graduated from the academy earlier this year.
“He is a distant relative of wolves, so I hope his instinct to hunt will help him to survive.”