Colombian soldier survives three weeks lost in jungle

A Colombian soldier who went missing in the jungle has been found after a 23-day ordeal that he survived by eating raw tortoise and singing rap songs to himself, the army said Tuesday.

Yefer Orlando Sanchez Fonseca got separated from his unit on March 5 while on patrol in the dense tropical forest of central Colombia’s Meta department, an area rife with armed groups, including the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The army said more than 500 troops combed the jungle and overflew the area looking for the 26-year-old soldier, before a lone colleague stumbled upon him Monday morning, more than three weeks after he went missing.

Sanchez, who was found filthy and on the verge of fainting, said in a radio interview that he had no food or water when he got lost.

“I was only carrying my equipment — my rifle, ammunition, helmet, some explosives… a poncho, a machete, a canteen,” he said.

“Thanks to my army survival training, I learned that anything that monkeys eat, we can eat too.”

He lived off seeds and discovered that red-footed tortoise is a “delight,” he said.

“One of them crossed my path and I had to take advantage. I ate it raw. I was very hungry by that point,” he said.

He said he saw FARC rebels at one point while staggering through the thick vegetation, but decided against surrendering to them.

“I barely slept. I was just clinging to my rifle, always on alert,” he said.

To keep his spirits up, he sang rap songs to himself — a habit he is known for among his comrades, reported newspaper El Tiempo.

When he crossed paths with the soldier who found him, both initially pointed their rifles at each other, before the rescuer’s “very professional” handling of the situation defused the tension, Sanchez said.

Sanchez, who is being treated for dehydration and fatigue at a military base, said he plans to stay in the army despite his ordeal.


© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.