Tippi Degré was raised amongst wild animals and had been given the nickname the “real-life Mowgli.” People became extremely fascinated by Tippi, especially after she wrote a book about her life and appeared in a number on documentaries. Her story and childhood pictures are truly unbelievable. It’s not common for parents to decide to raise their kids in the jungle; that’s why Tippi’s story is so intriguing.
While she was growing up in the jungle, Tippi had many adventures and unique experiences. She was raised outside of society alongside wild animals and encountered a few (friendly) tribes. After ten years, her family moved her back to mainstream society. Although adjusting to regular life wasn’t easy, Tippi managed to maintain a fairly normal job while pursuing her love for animals. From her childhood in the wild to her life now, this is the incredible story of Tippi Degré.
Girl in the Wild
In June 1990, Tippi Degré was born in Namibia to Sylvie Robert and Alain Degré, a French couple. Their child Tippi was named after the actress Tippi Hedren. You may recognize Hedren from her most notable role in Hitchcock’s film, The Birds. After Tippi was born, her parents decided that they didn’t want to give her a normal childhood.
Instead, they wanted her to be raised in Africa, among wild animals. I know it sounds crazy, but that was Tippi’s life. It wasn’t ideal for a child, but Tippi’s parents wanted to give her a unique upbringing. For the next 10 years, she ran around with elephants and made friends with leopards. Literally.
A Parent’s Choice
I know many parents would think Tippi’s mother, Sylvie, is insane! However, she had absolutely no regrets about how she decided to raise her child. “It was magical to be able to free in this nature with this child; she was a very lucky 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 animals and not too many humans,” Sylvie told Telegraph.
She went on to explain that Tippi’s daily life was playing with monkeys and making sure they didn’t steal her bottle. There were also multiple occasions, where as a baby, she would call her mother over and “point to an elephant eating from a palm tree and say ‘mummy, be quiet, we’re going to frighten him.”
It was clear that from a young age, Tippi had strong instincts about wild animals. Since she was a baby, her parents knew that their daughter was fearless. Sylvie explained that as a young toddler, Tippi was able to assimilate and adapt to the lives of these huge wild animals.
Her mother went on to say, “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.” I know, it sounds a bit extreme to put a child into a seemingly dangerous situation. However, Sylvie said that her daughter was best friends with those “ferocious beasts.”
Learning the Ways of the Jungle
As her mother mentioned, Tippi’s early childhood was spent worrying whether or not the wild animals among her would take her bottle away. This was because she was already running around the jungle at such a young age. Reportedly, Tippi was up and walking around by the time she was 10 months old.
If you have children, you know that most babies are still crawling at that age. Tippi’s upbringing was obviously not normal, and she was put in more dangerous situations than other kids her age. While most kids learn to look both ways before crossing the street, Tippy has to worry about ferocious animals attacking her.
She Knew Danger
It sounds scary, but Tippy never knew otherwise. Ever since she was born, Tippi was living with wild animals in the jungle, so naturally, she learned survival instincts very early in life. Many pictures are capturing the moment where Tippi made friends with a lion cub named Mufasa. One year after they met, Tippi wanted to see Mufasa again.
They went to see the lion who, by this point, grew into a massive cat. The lion seemed to have recognized Tippi and gave her a friendly rub. However, his huge tail almost knocked her over. When her parents saw that this large animal might put their small child in danger, they decided it would be a better idea to keep Tippi away from this specific animal.
Safe in the Wilderness
Her parents believed that no matter what, their child will always be safe. Her parents have no regrets, and 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.”
She continued, “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.” I understand her point. However, a child living in the city (or in a regular society) would at least get an education and be exposed to diseases a lot less.
Besties with an Elephant
When children are about one and a half years old, they begin to walk, talk, and try to do things on their own. They learn what they like and what they are afraid of. This stage is very pivotal when it comes to childhood brain development. When Tippi was a one-year-old toddler, she met an elephant named Abu.
Tippi didn’t really notice how big the elephant was, and she wasn’t scared. Instead, she just looked at him, played with him, and spoke to him. Although the elephant didn’t intimidate Tippi, the sheer size of the animal could put the child in danger. Her mother describes their meeting and strong bond as “incredible.”
Most kids make friends with the student sitting next to them in Kindergarten; this obviously wasn’t Tippi’s situation. She told The Telegraph that she is best friends with a leopard named J&B. After the leopard’s mother sadly died in a trap, J&B was adopted by a local farmer.
The leopard was extremely calm when he was around Tippi; however, the deadly animal didn’t lose its killer instincts. Tippi even recalls a time when the leopard tried to attack another child. Tippy went over to J&B to tell him to stop. He immediately listened and ran away. She is so instinctual with animals to the point where she can basically talk to them.
It was clear that Tippi had a gift. It was obviously because she was raised in the jungle, but nevertheless, she was able to connect with animals in a special way that most humans could not. It just came naturally to her. Her mother explained, “Tippi always said that everybody was gifted, and this was her gift.”
Tippi’s gift was being able to communicate with animals, a superpower most people can only dream of. You can tell because J&B obeyed Tippy and trusted her. This precious gift allowed her to meet numerous different animals, and her parents captured some incredible photos along this wild adventure.
It’s completely normal behavior for children to be afraid of animals that they aren’t familiar with. I mean, it’s pretty common for little girls to freak out at a bug or small frog. But not Tippi. She didn’t grow up in a society, and instead, was exposed to all kinds of animals.
Therefore, Tippi was friends with all animals, even the gross and slimy ones. Her parents managed to get this beautiful shot of Tippy with a very large African Bullfrog. You can tell how comfortable she is around the animal. It didn’t even occur to her that other kids her age would be fearful, or at least hesitant, before picking up an animal like that.
Often times, wild ostriches would run away from humans because they view them as predators. When an ostrich is frightened, it can reach a speed of 45 miles per hour, and if the animal is cornered, they can start to kick, which is extremely dangerous. Their kicks can kill a lion or other large vicious beasts. Luckily, Tippy encountered a sweet, friendly, and tame ostrich.
The ostrich was named Linda and was also owned by a local farmer. Tippi looks like she is having a blast riding a deadly animal as if it’s a horse. I personally wouldn’t let my child near this animal considering how dangerous it can be. Fortunately, Tippy is safe, but is it really worth the risk?
Friends with the Tribes
During their adventure and travels, the Degré family came across many tribespeoples. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering Tippi and her family lived in the jungle. Tippi was a friendly girl who enjoyed the tribespeople. She particularly befriended the Bushmen and the people of the Himba tribe in Kalahari.
The tribe even taught Tippi how to speak their language, use a bow and arrow, and how to survive on just roots and berries. Sometimes, she would hang out with them by herself. Her mother explained, “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.”
Part of the Tribe
Tippy was immediately accepted by the children in the local tribe. “When we came to a village with African children, within two minutes, Tippi was the clown, and people found her so cute,” Sylvia said. She just wanted to play with them; I think it’s because she craved human contact, but what do I know?
Her mother goes on to describe how tolerant and accepting all the children were and how much they enjoyed being around Tippi. The kids in the tribe were particularly fascinated by her hair. Unfortunately, Tippy never found that same love and acceptance when it was time to leave the jungle and move back to Europe.
So Many Adventures
If you aren’t familiar with the Seabird Islands, they are located right off the coast of South Africa. It happens to be one of the most important breeding sites for coastal birds. That’s why it comes as no surprise that the Degré family decided to take a trip over to the island during their unique journey.
Another thing that isn’t shocking is how Tippi was able to become one with the flock. Her connection with the animals seems extremely apparent in this picture. She is just six years old here with her arms out, completely in sync with the birds surrounding her. Yet being in sync with animals was just another day in the life of Tippi.
Tippi clearly has a strong relationship with animals, and this photo makes it even more apparent. Most kids are so scared of snakes that they would immediately run in the other direction if they even think they saw one. Not only does Tippi let the snake play with her, but she looks comfortable with the reptile touching her skin and giving her a little kiss.
She is adorable, but come on! If that were me, I would run away screaming. I know Tippi looks safe, but snakes can actually be dangerous. This one isn’t doing any harm, but what if Tippy comes across a poisonous snake? She won’t know to run. However, this picture is adorable and truly shows Tippi’s bravery.
Sleeping with the Leopards
As we previously mentioned, one of Tippi’s best friends growing up was a leopard. However, she didn’t only play with these wild animals; she napped with them too. I mean, most children sleep with Teddy bears, but Tippi takes stuffed animals to a whole new level. Why sleep with a stuffed animal when you can sleep with a real one?
This girl had no problem cuddling up with real live lion cubs during her naps. This might be terrifying for an ordinary child, but not for Tippi. The girl even has her hand in the cub’s mouth with no care in the world. Fortunately, the lion loves Tippi just as much as she loves him.
Some Zebra Love
Even at the Zoo, visitors are normally prohibited from feeding the animals. It can be dangerous because they might see humans as predators, get scared, and attack. Zebras are known to be extremely aggressive animals. They will viciously bite any human that comes too close. But obviously not Tippi. In Tippi’s case, there are no rules when it comes to animals.
Here you can see her fearlessly feeding a wild Zebra. Growing up with animals, they are basically like Tippi’s siblings at this point. They are both calm and collected. Plus, the Zebra seems excited about the snack Tippi brought him. I guess food is a universal way to make friends with any species.
When Tippi grew up and found her interests, she decided that she wanted to study cinema in France. If you ask me, it’s a bit surprising that she didn’t choose to focus on a career involving animals, such as veterinary medicine. With the childhood she had, I just thought she would gravitate towards animal studies.
On the other hand, she grew up surrounded by animals and probably knows more about animals than anyone else. She probably wanted to expose herself to different interests and hobbies. She still loves animals and spends most of her time protecting them. For Tippi, making films is a fun and effective way to spread awareness.
Playing with the Elephants
By now, it comes as absolutely no surprise that Tippi rode elephants. I mean, there is a picture of me riding an elephant at the circus when I was four, but it looked nothing like this. I looked terrified, and I was on the elephant’s back. She is wrapped around its trunk like it’s no big deal.
This photo really captures the love, trust, and respect Tippi and the elephant have for each other. However, the animal can be quite dangerous. They are so heavy that an elephant can accidentally squash such a small child. Don’t get me wrong. This is one of the most adorable pictures I have ever seen.
Joining the Herd
Even though elephants are massive creatures, they had no problem accepting little Tippi into their local elephant herd. As we saw, they had no problem giving her rides on their trunks, and now we see them welcoming her to bathe with them in the local pond.
The elephants allow her to come and cool off with them. You can see how excited Tippi is to splash the water, but the elephant remains calm. This once again shows the trusting connection Tippi has with wild animals. Plus, this girl needs a bath. No offense, but she’s been running around the jungle all day! It’s a good thing the elephants found her.
An Unconventional Child
Whether or not you think it’s a good idea to raise your child in the jungle, it’s no secret that Tippi had an unconventional upbringing. Her lifestyle was different. Most girls grow up wearing dresses and making friends with other kids. Tippi wore loincloths and befriended animals. While other girls carried purses, she had a suitcase made from local trees.
Instead of going to bed snuggling with a stuffed animal, Tippi experienced the real deal. Her life was obviously far from normal but shaped her into the brave, strong girl she became. Judging from this picture, I think it’s safe to say Tippi loved every second of it.
Besides the local tribe children, Tippi’s friends and playmates consisted of animals, including monkeys! Monkeys are known for being one of the smartest animals in the animal kingdom and are famous for their similarities with modern-day humans. They are adorable, and most kids wish they got to play with monkeys!
For Tippi, playing with monkeys was just a regular day. Unfortunately, monkeys tend to carry diseases that can be hazardous to humans. Most of these diseases are dormant in animals but can be transferred to people through scratches. Luckily, Tippi is safe while playing with them. She clearly has a connection to them, and the monkey even holds her hand.
Learning from Turtles
Since there is no conventional school system in the jungle, it comes as no surprise that Tippi was homeschooled. Her education went way beyond seeing animals interact on TV. Her parents thought the wild environment would teach their daughter whatever she needed to know. Her parents must have taught her life lessons through animal behaviors.
For example, you can learn a lot from a turtle. Turtles have incredible patience and determination towards their goals. At one point, Tippi did try going to public school, but ultimately, her parents felt that homeschooling was the best option for her. She didn’t grow up in a classroom with a bunch of other kids, so that environment took some getting used to.
Massive Creatures Love her
The African elephant is considered the largest animal on the planet. They can reach up to 8.2-13 feet in height and weigh up to an astonishing 2.5-7 tons. They use their trunk for communication purposes and to handle objects. The African Elephant can also live to be over 70 years old, and they tend to travel in herds.
If you don’t believe me, ask Tippi! She was welcomed into their herd. We already saw her riding and bathing with the elephants. But here she is simply playing. You can see how comfortable she is looking into the elephant’s trunk, like it’s a telescope, with no care in the world.
The Art of Photography
If one this is for sure, Tippi has the coolest childhood albums ever. We already saw so many mesmerizing pictures of a girl growing up in the wild. We saw Tippi with elephants, lions, turtles, crocodiles, monkeys, and more. This was thanks to her parents, who had the idea all along. I mean, they might as well, right?
Back when they decided that raising their child in the jungle was a good idea, they also made a decision to document it. Since they were wildlife documentary makers, they have a knack for capturing amazing pictures. This stunning photo truly portrays their photographic talents and abilities. Even the sunset in the background is on point.
Love not Money
It’s no secret that many zoos, circuses, and other entertainment organizations tend to get a lot of criticism for their mistreatment of animals. They force these creatures to perform to entertain spectators, and often, it’s under extremely harsh conditions. Sometimes animals will get beaten or slapped in the process.
However, in Tippi’s case, she never had to harm or punish the animals to get them to listen to her. For Tippi, riding elephants came easily. It was just part of her life and bonding activity with her animal friends. It was never a way to make money or some kind of tourist attraction like we often see.
She Loves All Animals
As we can tell, Tippi loved each and every animal. The animal could be cute, ugly, big, or small, but Tippi showed no discrimination. The cute fluffy ones were just as loved as the gross, scary ones. If this wasn’t already apparent, this picture is sure to change your mind. Here is a photo of Tippi kissing a slimy reptile yet again.
Most parents would teach their children to stay away so that they won’t get bitten. However, Sylvie and Alain raised Tippi differently. They were completely confident that she had the situation under control. It’s hard to relate to, but Tippi does seem to have a special connection with animals. I mean, she grew up in the jungle, and they never hurt her.
Tippi spent most of her life in minimal clothing, similarly to Mowgli in The Jungle Book. In many of her childhood pictures, you can see her wearing nothing but a loincloth or other light materials. She needed to stay cool in the hot African sun. And let’s just say that there’s nowhere to go shopping in the jungle.
Her wardrobe was definitely not high on her priority list. She wore enough clothes to keep her somewhat covered, but that was basically it. To her, style and clothes were a foreign concept considering animals she grew up with didn’t wear clothes. Wearing jeans and T-shirts must have been a difficult transition for Tippi.
No Cameras Please!
At age 12, Tippi got to return to Africa to shoot documentaries for the Discovery Channel. For Tippi, going back to the jungle should have been like returning to your childhood home. Her mom Sylvia described it as a wonderful experience, but Tippi disagreed. It was different when she was there to work.
Tippi explained to The Telegraph, “It was great to see the elephants and the lions, but it would have been better if it hasn’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.”
Throughout her childhood, Tippi has unbelievable photos with wild animals. However, her parents did admit that many of the animals were tamed by local farmers. I must say, this is extremely reassuring since a young child is living among them. Even though she was seen with dangerous animals on numerous occasions, a lot of them were trained not to hurt her.
Sylvie explained to 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, and so this is how Tippi was able to be so close with them.”
A Wild Child
As we previously mentioned, Tippi was a fearless girl! Her parents always allowed her to approach different species, no matter how big or small it was. No matter what their reputation was, or how dangerous they were, Tippy chose to only see the good in each and every animal.
If you think about it, it’s a really beautiful thing. To only see the good in the world. That’s one thing Tippi has, whereas city kids don’t necessarily have. Living in the jungle helped her become the brave girl that she is. It’s very apparent in this picture when you see her holding this little guy.
Only Bitten Once
Even though Tippi was raised in the jungle with hundreds of species, she was never hurt by an animal. In fact, she was only bitten once while she was living in the wild. Tippi’s middle name is Okanti, which literally means, mongoose or meerkat. Ironically, Tippi’s first bite was by a meerkat on her little nose.
However, there was one other incident where a baboon named Cindy attacked Tippi’s hair and ripped out a chunk. Sylvie explained how she believes that it was an act of jealousy. Either way, I expected a lot worse. This girl was exposed to elephants, snakes, and lions and played with them on numerous occasions without being harmed.
The Chronicles of Tippy
As soon as the “outside world” heard about Tippi, people were immediately fascinated and wanted to know more. There have been numerous documentaries centered on her and her experiences being raised in the jungle. In 1997, Le Monde Selon Tippi (The World According to Tippi) was released, and in 2002, Tippi en Afrique came out.
Finally, in 2004, Around the World with Tippi was released. Around the World with Tippi featured six environmental and wildlife TV documentaries. The documentaries premiered on the Discovery Channel. Fortunately, her story is publicized so everyone can get a scoop into her unique life.
A Different Jungle
After spending the first decade of her life living in the jungle, when Tippi turned 10, it was time for her to enter mainstream society. When her family moved back to the city, the transition wasn’t easy for Tippi. They lived in such a tiny apartment that there wasn’t even room for a dog. This was a pretty big shock for someone raised by animals.
Think about it. For her whole life, Tippi lived free in the jungle and didn’t know anything else. She went to sleep with lions and woke up to monkeys. Suddenly, she is put into a society with different types of foods, homes, and clothes. She is now surrounded by humans instead of animals, which was also quite an adjustment.
A Tough Transition
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the first two years of getting back into society was tough. Tippi’s parents tried so hard to assimilate their daughter into a “normal” society. They thought it would help if they sent her to a local state school in Paris. Unfortunately, that didn’t really work out for Tippi.
She quickly realized she didn’t have much in common with the other kids, so she started getting homeschooled. To ease Tippi’s pain and desire to be around animals, her family got her a budgie. “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,” Tippi’s mom said.
Ambassador of Namibia
As Tippi looks back and reflects on her life, she feels incredibly blessed. She had such amazing and unique experiences in her childhood and wouldn’t change a thing. When she was 10, she started her own website where she announced, “My name is Tippi. I am African, and I was born 10 years ago in Namibia.”
Her mother Sylvie explained to The Telegraph: “Tippi believes she is Africa, and she wants to get a Namibian passport. She wanted to become an ambassador for Namibia. It’s like the Mowgli story, but Tippi’s is true.” Eventually, the pressures associated with modern life helped her forget her calling. Tippi needed a wake-up call.
Living in Society
It took time, but eventually, Tippi was fully adjusted into regular society. She went to public school and even attended LA Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. She decided to study film and was last reported supervising and handling tigers at Fort Boyard (the site of a popular game show).
This picture of Tippi was taken at the FICMA, the International Environmental Film Festival. She truly does want to return to the jungle. That’s where she grew up, so nothing else feels more like home. However, Tippi knew that even though she lived without societal rules for a while, she does want to complete her education before going back into the wild.
Believe it or not, Tippi isn’t the only case where a child was raised by animals. One example is Marina Chapman. Marina was believed to be kidnapped and then abandoned. Luckily, she found refuge with a bunch of monkeys! They took care of Marina for five years and taught her how to catch rabbits and birds with her bare hands.
Another case was when a young Chilean boy was found in 2001 with a pack of dogs. It turns out that the boy was living among them for two years. It was reported by officials that the dogs protected the boy and helped him find food. I guess animals only see adult humans as a threat, not children.
The Best Case Scenario
Even though there have been many cases of children raised in the jungle by animals, none of them are like Tippi. Her experiences were intentional and happy. She lived a worry-free life surrounded by nature. Her magnificent upbringing only brought a positive impact on the little girl’s life. It’s common for the real-life “feral” children to suffer socially, mentally, and psychologically after growing up with wild animals.
Not for Tippi! Well, of course, she needed to adjust to the real world, but she loved every moment of her childhood. She looks back at her upbringing very fondly. While most kids grow up asking for unhealthy snacks like candy or Cheetos, Tippi begged her parents for a mouthful of local sweet coconut. Yum!
Since Tippi looks back at her wonderful childhood as a positive experience, her parents knew it would only be a matter of time before she goes back to Namibia. However, since they moved back to France, Tippi dedicated a lot her time protecting wildlife in Africa and bridging cultural gaps.
As much as she wanted to go back, the real world stopped her. It’s way easier to be raised in the jungle when you don’t know anything else. Leaving mainstream society after being a part of it is pretty difficult. However, Tippi is determined and ready to fight to make her dream of living with animals once again come true.
Tippi basically disappeared from the public eye after the release of her documentary, Around the World with Tippi. Audiences were still fascinated in her story and were interested to learn more about the girl who was raised in the jungle. However, it was Tippi herself who chose to take a step back.
Tippi didn’t like too much attention on her and was determined to keep a low profile and stay out of the spotlight. All she really wanted was to actually go back and live with the animals on the land she grew up on, without cameras! What she didn’t know is that the cameras ended up being her ticket back to the jungle.
A New Way to Help Animals
I guess the world had a different life in store for Tippi. She did go back and try to live in Namibia, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Like we said, it’s difficult to fall off the grid and leave society. That’s when Tippi decided to pursue a different path. Since she studied film, Tippi wanted to use her degree to make documentaries about Africa.
That way, she can focus on a career she is interested in while doing a lot of good for social justice. To film documentaries for the Discovery Channel, she got her ticket back to Africa. During her trip, she even got to reconnect with the tribespeople!
The Woman She Is Today
Tippy was ecstatic to be reliving her glorious childhood days. She got to be around her friends that she grew up with, including reptiles and the beloved tribespeople. They were all happy to see Tippi return all grown up! As they told stories by the campfire, Tippi knew she was home. She felt safe, comfortable, and loved.
To continue filming her documentaries, Tippi needed an off-road vehicle. She managed to secure the funding for it and now lives a wild and adventurous life! While other 25-year-old women are worries about their Instagram accounts, Tippi is more concerned about monkeys stealing her camera equipment.
One of Tippi’s best moments of returning to Africa was reuniting with the African tribal children she was raised with. Tippi strongly believes that people need to have friends from different cultures. If only. This would definitely bring us one step closer to world peace.
Tippi obviously has a special connection to animals and adores them all. However, there was one animal in particular that she identifies with above all. You may assume it would be elephants, but Tippi’s favorite animal is the cheetah. While she was working, Tippi woke up before dawn just so that she could sit in her jeep and watch the beautiful creatures.
Home Sweet Home
Despite growing up in an African jungle, Tippi still doesn’t have her Namibian Passport. Apparently, she is still fighting for citizenship. I’m betting it shouldn’t take too long before she obtains one, but meanwhile, she is on a visa that allows her to visit whenever she wants. That’s pretty convenient.
She is getting the best of both worlds. She can hold on to her childhood while maintaining a normal life and a steady job. She adjusted to society well, but she never forgot where she came from. She tends to keep her life private, which I respect. However, I truly hope she marries a tribesman and has an awesome tribal wedding!