This article was originally published on 24/7Mirror
Tippi Degré has been named "the real-life Mowgli," as she was raised amongst wild animals. After writing a book about her life and appearing in several documentaries, Tippi became a point of fascination for people everywhere. Her childhood pictures with dangerous wild animals will leave you speechless. So, let's start this wild ride.
Meet The Real Life Mowgli
Tippi Degré was born in June 1990 to a Frech couple, Sylvie Robert and Alain Degré, in Namibia, a country in Africa. As her parents were a huge fan of actress Tippi Hedren, they named their daughter after her.
When Tippi was born, her parents made a huge decision that their daughter would not have a normal childhood, but she would be raised amongst wild animals in Africa.
A Big Decision
Tippi spent the next ten years of her childhood running among elephants and making friends with leopards.
When The Telegraph asked Tippi's mother why she chose to raise her child like this, she said, "It was magical to be able to be free in nature with this child, she was a fortunate little girl – she was born and raised until the age of ten totally in the wild. It was just the three of us living in the wild with the animals and not too many humans."
Adapting Quite Early On
Sylvie Robert told The Telegraph about how her daughter would make sure that monkeys didn't steal her bottle. Her first instincts pointed out that she would find no trouble with a unique upbringing.
She recalls on many occasions when Tippi was a young infant and how she would point to an elephant eating from a palm tree and say, "mummy, be quiet, we're going to frighten him."
A Fearless Child
It became quite apparent to Tippi's parents that their daughter was fearless. After all, she found it natural and normal to live with such enormous and wild animals.
Sylvie said, "She was in the mindset of these animals. She believed the animals were her size and her friends. She was using her imagination to live in these different conditions." The "ferocious beasts" were best friends to her.
A Fast Learner
According to Tippi's mother, her daughter spent a lot of time worrying that wild animals would take away her bottle. It also meant that she was running around the jungle at a very young age.
That explains why Tippi was able to walk when she was just ten months old. It is impressive because most babies are crawling on all fours at this age.
A Careful Kid
As Tippi didn't have a normal upbringing, it meant that the dangers were a thousand times more serious for her than most children. After all, she was living in a place where ferocious beasts are always waiting for prey.
That's why she started to learn survival techniques at a very young age. This picture doesn't tell the entire story, and her parents were careful to not let their daughter play with knives.
Parents Were A Bit Cautious
Although Tippi's parents didn't intervene a lot when she was out playing with animals, they became a bit extra careful after one incident. Tippi had befriended a lion cub named Mufasa. So, a year after their first meeting, they all went to see Mufasa.
The lion cub who was all grown up now gave Tippi a friendly rub, and its tail almost knocked little Tippi. So, her parents stepped in to keep the animal away from her.
Tippi's parents have no regret over their decision for how they raised their child. In fact, they feel happy and proud of it.
Sylvia said, “For me, it was incredible to think you offer all of this to a child because I was at ease because I liked it and because we had lived with the Meerkats in the Kalahari desert for six years before Tippi was born, I believed it was fantastic to have that to offer to a child compared to what I would be able to offer to a child living in a city for example.”
Having a Best Friend
When Tippi was only one and a half years old, she met Abu the elephant and they instantly connected.
Tippi's mother describes how her daughter was drawn to the elephant, and she wasn't afraid of its size. Abu became Tippi's best friend as she would spend hours speaking to him. The bond between them was incredible.
A Close Bond with a Leopard
Tippi was also quite close to a leopard named J&B. She told The Telegraph about how the leopard's mother died in a trap, and it was adopted by a local farmer.
Whenever the wild animal was around Tippi, it remained calm. She recalls the moment when the leopard attacked another child, and she went to the animal and told it to stop. The leopard quickly ran away.
The Ability to Talk with Animals
It was clear from a young age that Tippi was an animal whisperer. She had a gift that she was able to connect with animals on different levels.
Her mother explained, "Tippi always said that everybody was gifted, and this was her gift.”
Lover of All Kinds of Animals
Tippi didn't just love mammals or fluffy animals, but she also loved slimy and small ones. While most little girls would scream and freak out at the possibility of touching a tiny frog, Tippi would hug Bullfrogs.
Here, her parents caught a beautiful moment between a large African Bullfrog and their fearless and loving daughter.
Riding an Ostrich
It may look photoshopped, but Tippi was indeed riding an ostrich when this photo was taken.
Although wild ostriches run away from humans because they see them as predators, Tippi was able to ride a tamed ostrich named Linda.
Becoming Friends with Bushmen
The Degré family encountered many tribes-people during their travels. Tippi took a special liking to Bushmen and the Himba tribe in the Kalahari. The tribe people not only taught her their language but also how to use a bow and arrow and survive on roots and berries.
Her mother said, “When we filmed the San Bushmen of northern Namibia, we would let Tippi spend the day with the group without us until she would fall asleep among the kids.”
One of the local tribes’ children accepted Tippi from the very start, and they considered her as one of their own. Sylvie said during an interview, “When we came to a village with African children, within two minutes, Tippi was the clown, and people found her so cute.”
She described how the local tribe children enjoyed playing with her. Unfortunately, she didn't find that complete acceptance because she had to go back to Europe.
Feeling like a Bird
As Tippi's parents traveled around Africa and explored different places, she enjoyed fun encounters everywhere. So, when they went to the Seabird Islands on the coast of South Africa, she became one with the flock.
Here, we can see 6-year-old Tippi completely absorbed in the moment and the surroundings.
Loving All Animals
Tippi's connection with animals was strong from a young age. She would allow the snake to give her little kisses and feel totally comfortable around it.
While young girls and even adults would never imagine going near a snake, Tippi was a unique girl who felt completely safe and comfortable around them.
Nap Time with a Beast
As we mentioned earlier how a leopard was one of her best friends, she was also friends with big, wild cats. She didn't just play with them, but she also enjoyed naps with them as well.
As young children like to sleep with a stuffed lion or other animals, Tippi took it to the next level by cuddling with a live lion cub. How crazy is that? Well, the photo shows how safe both of them felt around each other.
Zebra Feeding Time
When people go to the zoo, they are specifically instructed not to feed the animals. But in Tippi's case, there were no rules.
We can see how relaxed and happy she is while feeding a zebra. Well, food is a great way to make new friends, and she made a new friend that day.
A Different Career Path
When Tippi grew up, she decided that she would study cinema in France. It seemed a bit surprising as everyone suspected she would choose a career in veterinary medicine.
Tippi went for a new career path because she had spent a lot of time working for conservations, and she needed a platform through which she could effectively spread awareness.
A Special Bond
By now, you know about her special connection with animals. Here, you can see her bond with a huge animal.
She used to ride on the elephants, and they would cradle her with their trunks. There is an excellent level of mutual love, respect, and trust.
A Part of Local Elephant Herd
The best thing about Tippi's love for animals was that she used to get accepted quite quickly. The local elephant herd ultimately accepted her, and she would spend her time bathing or cooling them down in the local pond.
The elephants trusted her and felt safe around her. It was a surreal sight for many people because everyone knows that elephants can become aggressive.
While many young girls grow up wearing fancy clothes, Tippi had a very different lifestyle as she wore animal skins and loincloths.
While others carry purses, she used to carry suitcases made from local trees. It looks clear that she loved her unconventional lifestyle.
Although Tippi used to play with children of local tribes, she also enjoyed playing with animals, especially monkeys.
There was a special bond of trust and understanding between Tippi and the animals.
Homeschooled and Great Learning Experiences
Tippi was homeschooled throughout her early years. Her parents taught her about the wild environment and everything else that most young children need to know. It looks as if her parents used the behavior of animals to teach her various life lessons.
For instance, she learned from turtles about determination and patience. When Tippi later started to attend a public school, her parents realized they made the best decision to home-school their daughter.
One of TheLargest Land Animals
The African elephant is one of the largest and heaviest land animals on earth. They can easily weigh up between 2-7 tons and grow up to 13 feet tall. These large animals like to live and travel in a herd.
It can be hard to believe that Tippi was indeed part of their herd. In fact, she often used to ride them and take baths with them.
Amazing Childhood Photos
If you look at the childhood photos of people, you'll find that they are filled with happy faces in ordinary settings, but that's not the case with Tippi.
Her childhood photos album is filled with amazing photos of her with wild animals such as lions, monkeys, elephants, and turtles. It is mainly because her parents took great pictures of her and were always coming up with different ideas for wildlife photography.
I Am The Queen of The World'
Titanic was released in 1997, and this picture reminds us of that scene with Jack and Rose "flying."
As many circuses have come under fire for their mistreatment of animals, it was unbelievable to see how little Tippi was able to ride elephants without ever punishing or harming them. The elephants listened to her because they trusted and loved her.
Loving All Animals
One thing that made Tippi such an amazing animal lover is that she never loved animals based on their popularity. Some people can find the courage to love wild animals such as lions, elephants, or horses, but what about other animals? Tippi loved animals despite how cute, ugly, big, or small they were.
This photo shows how comfortable she is while kissing a slimy reptile. Her parents also didn't stop her because they knew that she always had the situation under control. They knew that animals wouldn't hurt her because she handled them with care and love.
Different Wardrobe, Of Course!
As Tippi spent most of her childhood with animals and local tribes, her wardrobe was different from other kids of her age. Just like Mowgli in the Jungle Book, Tippi also had minimal clothing.
In many of her photos, she can be seen wearing just a loincloth or lighter fabrics. It was done mainly to ensure she remains cool in the hot African climate. It must have been difficult for her to transition to wearing t-shirts and jeans once she was older.
Didn't Like Being Photographed
When Tippi was 12, she returned to Africa with her parents to film documentaries for the Discovery Channel. Although it was a wonderful experience for everyone, there was one thing that bugged little Tippi.
She told The Telegraph, “It was great to see the elephants and the lions, but it would have been better if it hadn’t always been in front of the camera. It was hard work, it was difficult, it was hot and I was not happy all the time. I was worn out at the end of it.”
Although Tippi was photographed with many wild animals, her parents made it clear that most of those animals were tamed by local farmers.
Her mother told The Telegraph, “In the arid or semi-desert regions of Southern Africa people have farms of 10,000 to 20,000 hectares. The farmers often keep orphan animals and raise them in their house. Sometimes they are tame or used to humans, so this is how Tippi was able to be so close with them.”
A Little Daredevil
Tippi was fearless from a very young age. As she grew up with different types of animals, she was seeing all kinds of cute, dangerous, and slimy animals.
Regardless of how dangerous the animal was, little Tippi always approached the animal without any hesitation.
A Great Record
As Tippi spent her time amongst thousands of animals, one would assume that she must've been bitten many times. Fortunately, that's not the case at all. She was only bitten once. As Tippi's middle name is Okanti, which means Meerkat or mongoose, it is ironic that a Meerkat delivered her first bite.
There was another small incident in which Cindy, the baboon, pulled out a handful of Tippi's hair. Her mother believes that it was done because the baboon was jealous of little Tippi loving other animals.
Tippi’s Life Chronicled
When the world started to learn about little Tippi, everyone became curious to know more about her. As a result of substantial public interest, multiple documentaries were made about her.
In 1997, Le Monde Selon Tippi (The World According to Tippi) was released. In 2002, Tippi en Afrique was released, and Around the World with Tippi (included six wildlife and environmental TV documentaries) was released in 2004.
Entering Mainstream Society
After spending most of her childhood in the jungle, little Tippi was ready to enter another jungle: mainstream society. She moved back to the city with her family.
Adjusting to life in the city was not easy for Tippi as she didn't have enough room for herself or her dog in a small flat, and there was no big playground. She went from acres of free space to a confined place.
Not An Easy Transition Period
For Tippi, the first two years of moving back to city life were not easy by any means. Although her parents sent her to a local state school in Paris, she didn't have a lot in common with other children. So, homeschool was the best option for her.
To help with the transition phase, the family bought her a budgie. Her mom said, “It would go everywhere with her, even on the train, flying right by her side, sitting on her head or falling asleep on her shoulder.”
Hoping to Become Ambassador for Namibia
When Tippi looks back on her life, she can say with confidence and happiness that she had a great childhood. She was just 10 years old when she started running her first website and she even declared on it that, “My name is Tippi. I am African and I was born 10 years ago in Namibia.”
Her mother told The Telegraph that, Tippi believes she is African and she wants to get a Namibian passport. She wanted to become an ambassador for Namibia. However, the pressures of modern life were making her slowly forget her life’s calling. She needed a wake-up call."
Making a Big Decision
Once Tippi started to adjust to the new lifestyle, she attended public school. She made the decision to study film and attended university at La Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris.
Here, you can see her at the FICMAN, the international environmental film festival.
Not The Only One
Believe it or not, Tippi is not the only child who was raised by animals. There are other kids as well, such as Marina Chapman, who was believed to be kidnapped and then abandoned.
She found refuge with a group of capuchin monkeys for almost 5 years. She was taught by the monkeys how to catch rabbits and birds with her bare hands. It was not until 2001 when a Chilean boy found her in a pack of dogs. She had been living with them for over 2 years. The dogs not only protected her but also helped her scavenge for food.
A Great Outcome
Although there are cases of children growing up in the jungle, Tippi's case is the only one in which parents made the decision to have a different upbringing of their daughter.
She loved every second of living in the jungle and the supervision of her parents made sure she grew up more than just fine.
The Love Remained In Her Heart
Even though Tippi moved to France with her parents, she never stopped loving animals. She and her parents knew that it would take some time before they would go back to Namibia.
She wanted to go back, but the world was making it difficult for her. Yet, she remained persistent.
What's Up With Tippi Nowadays?
After Tippi featured in the documentary Around the World with Tippi, she has somewhat vanished from the public eye. Although the world wanted to see more of a girl who was raised by wild animals, she wanted to have a low profile.
She wanted to go back to where it all started, but she didn't want to go with cameras. That's not how things worked out in the end.
Going Back with Cameras
Like we mentioned earlier that she didn't want to go back with cameras, she didn't know that the cameras would become her ticket to going back.
Her attempts to go to Africa didn't work as planned, so her film degree came to rescue. She went to Africa to do documentaries and use her cameras for social justice.
Back to Re-Living Life
With her cameras, she visited Africa several times to shoot documentaries for the Discovery Channel.
It helped her in many ways as she got to reconnect with the tribe-people and relive her life. These experiences helped her write her own book, "Tippi, My Book of Africa."
Shaping Into A Beautiful Woman
Making documentaries was Tippi's ticket to turning back to the wild world she adored so much. She not only got to shoot videos of animals, but she also reconnected with the tribes-people.
If you want to know more about her experiences, you can find it in her book. She has now all grown up and turned into a beautiful young woman.
Living an Adventurous Life
Tippi was able to manage more funds so that she could get an off-road vehicle that could enable her to shoot documentaries in areas that are not common.
While other girls of her age worry about their Instagram accounts, she only worries about her camera equipment not getting stolen by monkeys.
Her visits to Africa helped her reunite with the African tribal children who grew up with her.
She believes that becoming friends with people of a different culture is a great step towards acquiring peace. She is just a peace-loving, an animal lover who wants to live in a better world for everyone.
A High Spirited Person
Tippi has always identified with the cheetah because she admires the high spirit of the animal.
She has always been a brave person and even now she loves spending time with wild animals.
Fighting for Citizenship
Tippi still believes that she is African and is fighting for her Namibian citizenship.
From her story, we can deduce that she will get it sooner or later. She deserves the Namibian passport and we hope that she acquires it soon.
A Role Model for Everyone
What we can learn from Tippi is that there is a lot to learn out there and overcoming fear enables you to stand out from the crowd.
She did those things which were labeled as "dangerous" and she learned so much out of them without getting harmed. Perhaps, children who live in cities can learn from Tippi.