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The Girl Raised By Animals – The Stunning Story of Tippi Degre!

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Who hasn’t spent a rainy afternoon watching The Jungle Book? If you didn’t grow up loving the story of Mowgli the man-cub and Baloo the Bear, you need to change that as soon as possible! The story, based on the works of Rudyard Kipling, followed an orphaned boy raised by wild animals. While our real-life story doesn’t involve any singing bears, it does feature the closest approximation to a real-life Mowgli we’ve ever seen!  Today, we are happy to introduce you to Tippi Degre, the REAL life Mowgli! Settle in, we’re going for a safari! 

Meet the Real Life Mowgli

Our story begins on June 1990 in the country of Namibia in South Africa. Tippi Degre was born to Sylvie Robert and Alain Degre. Named after a famous Hollywood actress, Tippi’s parents would choose to raise their child alongside the wild animals of Africa. If that sounds wild to you, just wait until you hear the rest of her story!

Making a Tough Decision

Between Sylvia and Alain, Tippi was destined to grow up in a household that loved animals. However, even they had to think twice before allowing their daughter to engage with the wild animals that feature so prominently in their home country. Eventually, Sylvie realized that she wanted her daughter to be able to get to know the beauty of the natural world.

An Animal Lover Since Birth

After making the momentous decision to raise their child alongside animals, Sylvie would spend the bulk of her youth in and around the natural world. Sylvie told reporters from The Telegraph that Tippi particularly loved the monkeys and elephants when she was young. Rather than being afraid of the animals, Tippi would tell her parents to keep it down, so they wouldn’t be afraid!

Never Afraid of Anything

While it would have been completely reasonable for Tippi to be afraid of the animals that her parents introduced her to, the child rarely ever was! Sylvie told reporters that Tippi had a deep understanding of the animals, often using her imagination to pretend to be ‘ferocious beasts’ just like them!

Tippi Proves to be a Fast Learner

Tippi spent the majority of her infancy squabbling with monkeys and wild animals over her bottle. It didn’t take long for Tippi to start walking and then running with her animal friends. Tippi first began walking by the time that she was 10 months old. We aren’t talking wobbly walking, we are talking full-on walking!

Different Kind of Parental Concerns

It is easy to understand that Tippi was not raised in a typical household. For Tippi, there were always dangers lurking around every corner. With her parent’s close protection, Tippi was able to befriend all manner of animals. However, Tippi’s parents drew a line when it came to meeting a lion cub by the name of Mufasa.

Tippi Never Felt Afraid

If you are a parent, you are likely thinking that Tippi’s family was crazy for allowing their child near animals. While we can understand the perspective, Sylvie and Alain have both effused support for their decision. Sylvie described her child’s upbringing as ‘beautiful’ and it is hard to argue with that description!

Meet J&B the Leopard

Throughout the first ten years of her life, Tippi spent a considerable amount of time with animals of every stripe, feather, and scale. One of Tippi’s closest friends was a leopard by the name of J&B. Adopted by a farmer in the area, J&B was known for being a calm and serene animal. Tippi became friends in no time with J&B!

Tippi’s Favorite Friend Was an Elephant Named Abu

There is something almost mystical about seeing an elephant in the wild. When a young Tippi stood before Abu the fully grown African elephant, we can’t imagine what she thought. Abu quickly became one of Tippi’s closest friends with the two making frequent eye contact while ‘communicating’ back and forth.

Tippi Even Befriended an African Bullfrog

The African Bullfrog is just another one of Tippi’s friends from Africa. The African Bullfrog can mostly be found in the savannah, near freshwater lakes, or on just about any kind of dry shrub land. These massive frogs can grow up to 3 pounds! While they make for great pets, you do have to care extensively for them.

Immersing Herself in Local Culture

While Tippi and her family were focused on the wildlife of Africa, they also understood the importance of the people therein. The Degre family would spend many days with the Himba Tribe located in the Kalahari. This tribe brought Tippi into their midst and taught her their customs, an important moment for such a young child.

Always a Natural Animal Whisperer

From a seemingly young age, Tippi had the gift of connecting with animals. Called an animal whisperer by her mother, Tippi was always calm and rational around animals. It was her measured responses that allowed Tippi to grow so accustomed to being in their midst. Was Tippi just courageous or does she have some special skill?

Accepted by the Himba Tribe

Once Tippi was accepted by the Himba tribe, Tippi would be embraced by the tribe’s children. The kids would sing and play with Tippi, often calling her cute while puzzling over her hair. Unfortunately for Tippi, finding this kind of acceptance outside of Africa has been a whole different story.

Tippi the Snake Tamer

If there’s one creature that always makes us nervous, it is a snake. Seeing Tippi kissing the nose of a snake shows just how brave and compassionate the child is. Thankfully, her parents worked with tamed animals or else this could have been much more dangerous and infinitely more reckless!

Our Favorite Photo of Tippi

If you ever need a majestic photo to simultaneously confuse and impress people, this is it. We’re not sure what the rules are when it comes to riding an ostrich, but she has to be too young for her license! We are only jesting. Tippi and her parents worked closely with trainers to ensure the safety of all parties involved.

Calmly Napping With Cubs

Tippi didn’t often get to spend time with the ‘big cats’ of Africa, outside her time with J&B. This rare image shows Tippi sleeping, or at least pretending, while an adorable lion cub tries to copy her. Look at the size of the cub’s paws in comparison to Tippi. What an amazing visual.

A Life of Exploration

One of the big benefits of growing up like Tippi was the ability to explore the world. This stunning image shows Tippi hanging out with the coastal birds of Seabird Island. This image shows Tippi at the age of six, seemingly already enlightened by her own animal-loving capabilities! Can you imagine if she started tossing bread?

Enjoying the Majesty of an Elephant

As we’ve touched on a few times, Tippi was absolutely beholden by the elephants of Africa. More than friends with just Abu, Tippi would spend as much time as possible around as many elephants as she could. This image shows Tippi posed on the elephant’s trunk, a sign of respect and trust by both parties.

Like Mowgli in the Wild

This image looks like it was pulled straight from a ‘Jungle Book’ type of movie. Here we see Tippi feeding a zebra as evidenced by the signature black and white stripes. Did you know that a group of zebras is commonly referred to as a dazzle or a zeal? Scientists had to work a ‘z’ in there, didn’t they?

Spending Time with the Herd

This image shows Tippi relaxing with a herd of elephants at a watering hole. Despite Tippi’s outward excitement, the elephant is clearly calm and measured in how it is interacting with Tippi. As incredibly intelligent creatures, elephants can showcase a wide array of behaviors and skills. Could you splash around with an elephant?

Life Looks Different For Tippi

From an incredibly young age it was clear that Tippi would not be living a life similar to her peers. This image sort of summarizes how different life was for Tippi when compared to her human friends. While many children carry purses and teddy bears, Tippi played in trees and carried lizards around. 

The Gentle Nature of an Animal Lover

During her childhood, Tippi often had to compete with the monkeys when it came to handling her bottle. Apparently Tippi didn’t hold it against her primate buddies. This image shows Tippi’s careful and compassionate way toward animals, a skill honed by a lifetime surrounded by nature and a healthy respect for the world.

Beloved by the Largest of Animals

While extinction is a serious problem for many animals in the world, and Africa itself, there are still wonders to see roaming the continent. From the smallest of lizards to the largest of elephants, Tippi was seemingly always at home. This image shows a stunning display of affection by the elephant toward Tippi.

Family Bonding Through Art

Tippi’s parents were filmmakers and artists, so it stands to reason that they captured as many photos of their daughter as possible. While Tippi was in love with animals, she didn’t really care if her parents ever took any pictures. For Tippi, her childhood truly was just about the animals.

Tippi’s Alternative Educational Path

Tippi spent her childhood in the homeschool program. Her parents used their own extensive knowledge to help raise their daughter in a unique environment. Can you imagine all of the school lessons that Tippi got to enjoy alongside her animal ‘classmates’?  Tippi would later try to attend regular school though the attempt was short-lived as Tippi returned to homeschool.

Enjoying a Side of Life Rare for Humans

What is most stark about Tippi’s life is that she was raised in a way that most humans will never experience. Every single day, species are pushed toward the brink of extinction. The animals that Tippi grew alongside are rapidly vanishing from our planet. For Tippi, her childhood was a one-of-a-kind experience.

Growing Up With a Different Wardrobe

It gets incredibly hot in Africa and for that reason, you will rarely see images of a young Tippi wearing jeans or parents. Instead, her parents embraced the climate by dressing their daughter to succeed. This image shows Tippi being dressed up by a member of a local tribe. Can you imagine going from this outfit to jeans and a t-shirt?

Born to be Fearless

Tippi was raised to befriend and be comfortable around wild animals, so is it a surprise that she grew up to be a daredevil? Tippi never showed fear in front of animals as a child, so her parents were always on the lookout to make sure that Tippi didn’t get into trouble. Thankfully, Tippi spent her childhood without any serious accidents!

Tippi Liked Animals, Not Photos

While her parents cataloged just about everything that Tippi did, she certainly never asked for it. Tippi famously disliked photographs during her childhood, an issue that would rear its head again later on in her life.  As an adult, Tippi told reporters that she would have enjoyed seeing the animals without the camera there, claiming that the work was often difficult and hot.

Playing With Tamed Animals

Tippi’s childhood was made safe thanks to the fact that her family worked with tamed animals.  Sylvie would go on to explain to newspapers that many farmers in Southern Africa own and raise their own orphaned animals. This was often the route that Tippi’s family would take in order to meet a rare or exotic creature.

Tippi Even Loved Reptiles

We admire how Tippi was enraptured by animals of every sort. Tippi wasn’t solely in love with the cute fuzzy little creatures, though she enjoyed them too. Tippi particularly enjoyed meeting and greeting lizards, something that was quite surprising to Tippi’s parents. Thankfully, Tippi’s ‘animal whispering’ capabilities extended to reptiles.

Injured Only Once

Due to the numerous interactions that Tippi had with wild animals, you’d expect her family to have dealt with injuries. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case. Tippi was only bitten once throughout her entire childhood. The offending critter? A meerkat! Tippi’s middle name is Okanti which translates to ‘Meerkat’. Pretty eerie, right?

Becoming a Child Celebrity

A story as unique as Tippi’s will always find an audience. When Tippi’s story began to go viral, people around the world wanted to hear more. Multiple documentaries have been filmed about Tippi and her family, including several produced by Tippi!  In the blink of an eye, Tippi would become a celebrity around the globe.

Leaving the Jungle Behind

While Tippi had made a name for herself in South Africa, she wasn’t destined to live there forever. After ten years of life in the jungle, Tippi’s family moved back to the city. Switching to city life was a struggle for Tippi as the young girl had to adjust to life in a small apartment without all of Africa as her playground.

Painfully Leaving Her Animal Friends

Life in the city didn’t grow to embrace Tippi right away. According to Sylvie, it took nearly two years for Tippi to completely acclimate to conventional society. Her parents had moved Tippi back home to Paris and it was there that she would briefly attend public school.  Tippi would raise a little budgie to remember her childhood.

Studying Film at La Sorbonne Nouvelle University

Eventually, Tippi decided that she was going to follow in her family’s filmmaking footsteps. Tippi would leave homeschool behind to attend La Sorbonne Nouvelle University. At La Sorbonne, Tippi would study film while working on her own documentaries, often about her life and experiences with the animals of her childhood.

Working With Namibia as an Ambassador

Even though Tippi enjoyed making films, her heart was in South Africa. Tippi had dreamed of becoming an ambassador for Namibian, and she is still working toward that goal today. Unfortunately, Tippi has had unforeseen troubles when it comes to getting her Namibian passport. One day, Tippi hopes to become a full-fledged citizen of the country.

A Happy Ending For Tippi

All things considered, Tippi enjoyed what could not have been a more exciting childhood. Tippi was able to share her childhood with the majestic and beautiful animals of South Africa without suffering a single incident. Now, Tippi spends time working at Fort Boyard where she supervises tigers. How is that for a fitting job?

Continuing Her Work as a Filmmaker

When Tippi isn’t at Fort Boyard, she is still spending time working on her films. If you want to see the world through Tippi’s eyes, consider picking up her self-made documentary, “Around the World with Tippi”.  Through her cameras, Tippi has continued to work as an advocate for the animals of Namibia.

Famous ‘Feral’ Children

While Tippi isn’t truly a case of a ‘feral child’, she allows us to discuss others who are. Feral children are considered as human children that have lived away from a human upbringing, experiencing little to no care from humans from either a social or behavioral context. There are a number of tragically famous feral children including Kamala and Amala, pictured above. Kamala and Amala were two children raised by wolves near Midnapore just west of Calcutta. Raised by wolves for years, Kamala and Amala had long canine teeth, malformed jaws, and the wolf-like behavioral tics that had come from their upbringing.

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