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British grandmother claims she was raised by monkeys

April 9, 2013 at 8:25 AM ET

Video: In a new book, Marina Chapman is claiming that after being kidnapped and left in the Colombian jungle, she was kept alive by capuchin monkeys, surviving on their discarded fruit and nuts, forgetting her name, and living as a monkey for years. NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports.

In her new book, a British grandmother is claiming that she had quite a wild side in her youth.

Marina Chapman’s book, “The Girl with No Name,” claims that she was raised by monkeys in the Colombian jungle for about five years of her childhood, adopting their behavior and eating the same food. Chapman claims that a group of capuchin monkeys became her surrogate family after she was kidnapped and abandoned in a Colombian jungle when she was 4 years old.

She says she survived by eating the monkeys’ discarded fruit and nuts, eventually forgetting her parents and even her own name. She also learned how to climb high in the trees, which she can still do today in her mid-60s.

“I learned from them,’’ she told Michelle Kosinski on TODAY Tuesday. “They became my family.’’

After living with the monkeys for several years, Chapman says she encountered hunters who tried to sell her into domestic slavery in the Colombian city of Cucuta. She then ran away and became a thieving street kid before being adopted by a loving family in Bogota as a teenager and giving herself the name Marina.

Her eye-opening tale has led to questions of whether it’s not just the imagination of a child.

“It's not imagination,’’ Chapman said. “I know. I know what I know, I'm very sure. You become resilient, and you survive.”

“There's no evidence she's lying,’’ Douglas Candland, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University specializing in feral children, told TODAY. “What happens over time is of course the more you tell the story, some aspects of it get sharper, and some get forgotten.”

Chapman went from living in the wild as a child to living the domestic life when she met her husband at a church in Bradford, England, in 1978, after traveling there with a family who employed her. The couple has two daughters, Vanessa and Joanna, who convinced her that her amazing tale needed to be shared in a book.

“(Her story) made sense,’’ Chapman's daughters told Kosinski. “When you are raised by her, you just find it normal.’’

The daughters considered giving their mother a lie detector test, but instead they went to Colombia to try to verify her story. They say they tracked down locations and found people whom they claim corroborated their mother's story outside the jungle.

“Mom seemed more excited about finding her monkey family,’’ Joanna Chapman told Kosinski. “She’s learned recently that monkeys can live up to 55 years, and she’s recently gone, ‘They might be alive, I might find the one.'”

Twice in recent years, children have been found in the wild in Africa who were believed to have been protected by monkeys. Chapman, a grandmother of three, still occasionally embraces her wild roots, according to her family.

“She’s just not a lady,’’ Joanna joked. “Every morning she wakes up and she's like ‘I have a house! I’ve got feet!’ You know, the simple things."

Read an excerpt from her book: 'The Girl With No Name'

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