Juliane Diller

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Juliane Diller, née Koepcke, was born in Lima in1954 and grew up in Peru. In 1968 her parents took her to the Panguana biological station, where they had started to investigate the lowland rainforest, on which very little was known at the time.


After the much too early death of her mother in a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle on Christmas Eve of 1971, which Juliane survived as the only person on board, she moved to Germany in 1972. She finished school and then studied biology at universities in Kiel and Munich. The field studies for her diploma thesis on diurnal butterflies and for her doctoral dissertation on bats she carried out at Panguana (please see this site’s page on Research > Publications). In 2000, after the passing of her father, Juliane took over as Panguana’s director and main organizer of research expeditions to the station.

Since 1989 Juliane Diller has been working at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich (ZSM), where she is the deputy director and heads the museum’s large special library. She and her husband have been living near Munich for over 30 years.

 „When I Fell from the Sky“

Twenty-seven years after the horrible plane accident, famous movie director Werner Herzog filmed with Juliane Diller at the crash site for a documentary then screened under the title “Wings of Hope”. Forty years after the traumatic ordeal, Mrs. Diller (using her maiden name of Koepcke) told her story in a book that has been translated into several languages (English title: “When I Fell from the Sky”).

The following translation from the invitation to a reading by Juliane Diller in Karlsruhe in 2013 – presented here courtesy of Dr. Robert Trusch (State Museum for Natural History Karlsruhe) – aptly summarizes the corresponding events.

When a plane crash in the Peruvian rainforest on Christmas Eve of 1971 claims the lives of every person on board except one, 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke, the girl is able to draw from ample childhood experience in the wild, as her parents, passionate scientists, had taken her along on their expeditions throughout Peru as often as possible. In 1968 they had founded a biological research station, Panguana, deep within pristine Amazonian primary forest, and Juliane has lived there for a year and a half prior to the tragic catastrophe. During that time she learns the laws of the rainforest, becomes familiar with most of the local animals’ sounds, knows which creature means what kind of danger and how to find her bearings in the jungle. These skills save her life after the crash. For eleven days the girl, injured and with nothing but a handful of sweets in her bag, battles her way through the forest until she is rescued by local woodcutters. Today, four decades later, Juliane Koepcke finds the strength to recount the miracle of her survival – and tells us how now she is working as a biologist and conservationist to preserve Panguana in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest.

In 1998, famous movie director Werner Herzog filmed with Juliane Koepcke at the crash site and in Panguana for a documentary entitled “Wings of Hope”. Today, the professional biologist and her husband lead the research station of her parents and return to Peru every year.

The book was published under the German title “Als ich vom Himmel fiel” in 2011, exactly 40 years after the terrible events.
It has been translated into several languages; the English edition (“When I Fell from the Sky “) was publicly presented by the author in London and New York, the Spanish one in Lima (Peru) in 2014.

The children’s book “Juliane falls from the sky”

In December of 2016 a children’s book entitled “Juliane fällt vom Himmel” (Juliane falls out of the sky) was published, with watercolors by friar Lukas Rügenberg from the Benediktinerabtei Maria Laach Aquarelle abbey and texts by Thomas Heinzeller.

For each copy sold, 1 Euro is donated to the Panguana Foundation.