Colombia Decorates Rescue Team That Found Children Lost In Amazon

Colombia on Monday awarded one of its highest decorations to the soldiers, indigenous rescuers and civil servants who led a successful operation to find four children lost for weeks in the Amazon.

In a ceremony held in Bogota, President Gustavo Petro praised the collaboration between the military and indigenous communities, awarding members of the mission, dubbed Operation Hope, with medals of the Order of Boyaca – the second-highest distinction in the armed forces, and the highest for civilians.

“More than the medals, which are symbolic… the great prize, the great reward, is called life,” Petro said.

The search for the four Indigenous children, which captured worldwide attention, was launched after the plane they were travelling on crashed in the Amazon on May 1.

Siblings Lesly, Soleiny, Tien Norie, and Cristin – ages 13, 9, 5 and 1, respectively – survived the impact, and more than a month of living in the jungle, guided by “ancestral” knowledge, Petro said.

They were found on June 9.

The search saw the military deploy helicopters, satellites and loudspeakers playing a recording of the children’s grandmother, among other tactics.

The indigenous rescuers they collaborated with say they connected with “Mother Earth” thanks to ayahuasca, a traditional drink with hallucinogenic properties.

Petro praised the collaboration for “teaching all of Colombia how being united, we can find life.”

Also awarded decorations Monday was a dog named Drugia – the mother of Wilson, the military’s rescue canine who at one point located the children in the dense jungle, but got then separated from them and remains lost.

General Pedro Sanchez, leader of Operation Hope, said monuments would be built to remember the legacy of the 6-year-old Belgian Malinois shepherd.

The children are recovering at a military hospital in Bogota.

The government has announced it is preparing a documentary on their discovery with British producer Simon Chinn.