Sometime in November, a video of Zanzimana Ellie, a Rwanda boy said to prefer to live in the forest and feed on grass has surfaced on social media drawing various kinds of feelings and opinions from people.
Ellie, 21, whose facial appearance resembles that of an African Chimpanzee, reportedly does not live like every normal person but chooses to forage on grass―rejecting food given to him by his mother who believes him to be a special child. He does not speak, does not go to school and has learning difficulties, and can survive in the forest.
In a footage filmed by Afrimax TV, Ellie’s mother speaks about her son and believes him to be the gift of an answered prayer from God; she and her husband―having lost 5―had been desperate to have a child and prayed to God for even an abnormal child.
Dubbed ‘monkey’ by cruel bullies, Ellie is a victim of harsh treatment from his fellow villagers due to his unusual way of life. He is described as being ‘as fast as Usain Bolt’ and spends most of his days in the forest. He, also, doesn’t know how to speak and can only communicate with waves.
Due to his spending most of his time sprinting away from the village, Ellie’s mother created a makeshift lasso which helps her to catch him. She would run after him in the woods and throw the rope over him to pull him closer. Villagers also assist in keeping him away from the forest, often chasing after him to help bring him back to the village.
“He doesn’t like food,” says his mother. “He prefers eating bananas. He doesn’t know anything, he can’t do anything,” she added.
“All he does is run. When he sees people, all he does is run from them. Wherever he runs I have to run after him. In a whole week we can cover 230km.”
“If I do not follow him, he might not come back home.”
According to the film ‘Born Different’, Ellie had a head the size of a tennis ball when he was born; a factor that stops him from getting a formal education. Also speaking to filmmakers, his mother says that “After losing our five children we asked God to at least give us a disabled child, as long as he does not die as early as the previous ones. When he delivered him, I knew it was a message from God.”
Speaking about the bullies, she says neighbours do not consider her son a boy, but see him as an ape, and bullies him relentlessly.
“This hurts me so much,” she says. “When my child goes and comes back and has been beaten. They yell at him and call him monkey. It makes me so sad hearing people bullying my son.”
“Not only kids, but seeing grown-ups bullying him shamelessly. They make me lose my temper. They don’t see him as a human being, only an animal.”
(By Ejiofor Ekene Olaedo)