‘Real-life Mowgli’ who ate grass in forest unrecognisable after ‘miracle’ change

In the not too distant past, you'd have been likely to find Zanziman Ellie in the forest, eating grass and bananas alongside wild animals.

His behaviour saw him dubbed 'real-life Mowgli', a reference to a feral boy raised by wolves in classic Disney film The Jungle Book.

But these days, he's almost unrecognisable, donning a smart suit for school.

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And his mum insists his incredible transformation is nothing short of a "miracle".

Zanziman was forced to run away and hide in his native Rwanda after cruel bullies made his life a misery because of his appearance. He was also called "monkey" because of how he lived.

But when a film crew arrived in the African country to make a documentary about him, his life changed dramatically.

He is now back living with his family back in the village and getting an education at school all suited and booted.

Before that, though, Zanziman was in some ways similar to Mowgli, the main character in Rudyard Kipling's story.

After the documentary about Zanziman was aired on YouTube by Afrimax TV, his story went viral.

Born in 1999, Zanziman was immediately shunned by the community and due to his physical appearance.

He suffers from microcephaly, a condition where a baby's head is much smaller than expected.

He was also not allowed to attend school, because village chiefs mistakenly believed he did not have the mental capacity to concentrate in class.

Denied an education and taunted by cruel bullies, Zanziman fled his village and spent time in the forest, foraging for food. This resulted in him not being able to speak and he had to survive on grass and plants.

But after the film was aired, Afrimax TV set up a GoFundMe page which received a flood of donations from viewers around the world so a new life could be built for Zanziman and his mum.

All those donations were used to send him to a school for children with special needs at the Ubumwe Community Centre in Rwanda. He now regularly wears a well-fitting suit as he heads to class where he is studying.

Zanziman's mother said: "God is a miracle worker. He was being ridiculed and I would often run after him. At the moment he is in school with his peers and I am so happy.

"My son is having a good life, well-wishers have built me a house… my sorrow has been taken away."

Her son has also become something of a celebrity, with people constantly stopping him on the street to take a picture with the young man whose life has changed drastically since the documentary was released.


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