We’re going to go out on a limb and say Tippi Degré’s childhood was way waaay more awesome than yours. In fact, her young life is the stuff childhood dreams are made of, it was all about breaking rules, frolicking in the sun with animals and playing in the mud, catching butterflies and riding elephants. And lucky for Tippi, her parents, both wildlife photographers, were on hand to capture every magical moment. These images were eventually collected and published in a best-selling book called Tippi of Africa which was translated into several languages, and made Tippi a young celebrity. All of you need to get right now. There’s something about the images that is completely inspiring and life-affirming, like this is what life is supposed to be about – running around half-naked in nature, hugging every furry thing in sight and just feeling the sunshine on your skin. Hell yes.
Tippi was born in Namibia where her parents, Alain Degré and Sylvie Robert, worked as freelance photographers. From a very young age it became clear that Tibbi had a natural connection with wild animals including a number of highly dangerous one like a leopard, crocodiles, lion cubs, and a cheetah whom she treated as her friends and played with daily. During this time she also made friends with a 28-year old elephant Abu, giraffes, a Northern Greater Galago, a Banded Mongoose, an Ostrich, meerkats, a baby zebra, a Caracal, a snake, an African Grey Parrot, giant bullfrogs and chameleons. She also befriended the Bushmen and the Himba tribespeople of the Kalahari, who taught her how to survive on roots and berries, and to speak their language.
According to Tippi’s mother, “It was magical to be able to be free in this nature with this child. She was a very lucky little girl – she was born and raised until the age of 10 totally in the wild. It was just the three of us living in the wild with the animals and not too many humans. 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.”
It was surprising the way all the animals were particularly gentle with Tippi. They all sort of accepted her as their own. Tippi’s parents look back at how difficult it was to capture her riding Linda the ostrich, who was so afraid of hurting the girl, that she would not move when Tippi was around. About her daughter’s relationship with Abu the elephant, mother Sylvie recalls: “She had no fear. She did not realize she was not the same size as Abu. She would look into his eyes and speak to him.”
Later Tippi and her parents moved back to France where she became a full blown star. Everyone saw her as a real life Mowgli from the Jungle Book. Tippi Degre is now 24 years old with an impressive number of accomplisments under her belt thanks to her extraordinary life. She wrote a best-selling book called Tippi: My Book of Africa, and was the star of six documentaries for the Discovery Channel. You can check out the trailer for one of them here.