A little girl, born and brought up for 10 years among wild animals, calls an elephant her brother, comfortably cradles a snake, lazes around with a leopard; well… the list is endless. The pictures caught by her photographer parents will take you through the amazing journey of her growing up years.
Exactly as depicted in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” this beautiful young girl indeed experienced how it feels to be a real-life Mowgli.
Tippi, now 23-year-old, was born to French parents, Sylvie Robert and Alain Degre who are wildlife photographers. The family of three traveled extensively, photographing the incredible animals and people of the various regions of Africa. Their work is truly admirable.
The adventure started where Tippi was born in Namibia, and ended in her travelling through countries like Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“Her everyday life was making sure monkeys did not steal her bottle,” said Sylvie.
“Or she would call me over and point to an elephant eating from a palm tree and say ‘mummy, be quiet, we’re going to frighten him.” She had so much freedom.
This little girl Mowgli is French. Little Tippi has the most unusual of friends.
Tippi seen playing with her favorite playmates, the two meerkats, below.
The pictures from “Tippi: My Book of Africa,” which is now being published worldwide, will take you through her journey of having a full grown, 34—year—old elephant as her brother, a leopard, her best friend and monkeys to monkey around with!
Her full name is Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degre.
“This is funny because Tippi’s middle name is Okanti, meaning mongoose or meerkat. They were part of her family in Africa, so I wanted her to have something to take home with her,” says her mother.
Tippi, aged 6, seen riding an ostrich named Linda, in South Africa. Of course, the ostrich is tamed and has bonded well with Tippi.
Tippi riding on Abu, the elephant’s neck as he leads his herd in Okavango Swamps, Botswana.
An amazing, must watch, video!
Tippi, aged one and a half, drinking from her bottle, wearing her nappy and boots, clicked among an elephant herd in Okavango Swamps, Botswana.
Real life Mowgli: Tippi aged 6 sitting with J&B, a tame adult leopard in Namibia, both wearing matching spots on their clothing.
Tippi dressed to match the lifestyle of her hosts and practicing their amazing art of hunting.
“It was like having the biggest playground. We lived in a tent, completely in the wild, but she always woke up with the sun shining and her parents around her. She was very lucky.”
Tippi was truly comfortable bonding with the animals around her. There was an amazing camaraderie they shared, without the use of a common language. She communicated with them with ease.
“She was so at ease with animals. She would talk to them with her eyes and her heart,” said Sylvie.
One of her closest friend was the giant among animals, Abu, a 34-year-old full grown, adult African elephant. She befriended him in the most natural and comfortable manner, that only an innocent child can manage to do.
Wondering at the wonders of life – with her meerkat whispering to her!
Tippi poses grandly on the trunk of Abu the 34-year-old elephant in Okavango Swamps, Botswana.
And the two, matching steps with each other.
The little girl matches her size with the most elegant and gigantic creature left on earth. She calls Abu her brother.
“She did not realize she was not the same size as Abu the elephant. She would just speak to him like she would speak to me. They used to call her ‘the little girl who would talk with animals.”
Tippi developed strong and loving relations with some of the most dangerous beasts in the animal kingdom with great ease, and one of the reasons was they were used to humans.
Most of the animals had been orphaned and raised by farmers, so they are used to seeing humans around.
However, the mother was ever so vigilant in making sure the little girl was never exposed to evident danger. Sylvie always considered Tippi’s safety first.
“You can’t just meet any of these animals and act like this with them,” explains Sylvie.
“Wild animals will either run away or attack you if they are either frightened, injured or need to protect their young.”
Tippi enjoying the sea breeze, totally peaceful, as if meditating, surrounded by a huge flock of birds, all seemingly relaxed in her presence, on the Sea Bird Island, Africa
Tippi again on the Sea Bird Island, Africa, watching a colony of penguins.
When Tippi returned with her parents to France — at the age of ten, she found it extremely difficult adjusting to life in Paris.
She totally missed these rides on the her pet ostrich Linda, in South Africa, and the like, on warm sunny days.
One more of Tippi’s pets, a rock python, whom she cradles comfortably in her lap.
Cindy the baboon in Namibia is quite happy in the company of the pretty little girl and is enjoying being stroked by her.
The mother always had to keep an eye on her daughter, to protect her.
“I had the least fear I wouldn’t have let Tippi anywhere near them. The photo with Tippi next to the young lion cub Mufasa sucking her thumb is wonderful.
“The year after this photo we came back and we went to see him and he was huge.
“Mufasa came to Tippi and he friendly brushed her with his long tail, like a cat would do, and she almost fell down. I had to take her away – I was not at ease.”
“But she was only ever bitten once on the nose by a Meerkat, only two bites!”
“The second incident was when she met with Cindy the baboon at a water point. Cindy attacked Tippi’s hair and pulled out a handful, out of jealousy.
“That was terribly painful! Wild animals are unpredictable. We can’t be sure of their reaction as we are not of the same species, we don’t know all of their behavior codes.”
Tippi with the San Bushmen of northern Namibia learning their skills of using a bow and arrow.
The women and children of the San Bushmen of northern Namibia are responsible for gathering fruits and berries from the wild. Little Tippi joins them.
Tkui is applying some herbal medicine made from berries to Tippi’s eye in Namibia and others share the skill of making a bow and arrow.
Tkui of the San Bushmen of northern Namibia, pours some water for Tippi from a root plant in Okavango Swamps.
When we last went back to Africa in 2006 we went to see some of the animals she met in the past, including Cindy the baboon.
“We found out that Cindy is a grandma now: my friend who has raised her like the baby of the family had twins. Cindy decided that she was in charge of them and, being older, became like a grandma for the kids.”
“They met each other and Cindy went to Tippi and started playing with her hair, grooming her. It was quite beautiful.”
And it wasn’t only the animals who were taken with the young Tippi, as Sylvie explains.
“When we came to a village with African children, within two minutes Tippi was the clown and people found her so cute,” she says.
“Africans love other children – especially white children and she was so much fun with her hair and so different.”
“When we filmed the San Bushmen of northern Namibia (one of the most ancient people of Africa who live from hunting and gathering in the Kalahari desert) we would let Tippi spend the day with the group without us until she would fall asleep among. the kids.”
“She was at ease with the children and would dress and play with them – she could never find the same when she came back to Europe.”
When Tippi returned to France – at the age of ten, it was hard adjusting to city life in Paris.
“She missed the animals so much,” said her mother Sylvie.
“We didn’t have room for a dog in our flat, so we got a budgie instead.”
“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.”
“She loved that little bird so much. He was the only friend she had.”
Now aged 23 and studying her third year in a degree in cinema, Tippi is facing a different jungle … the concrete one.
But the memories of her time in Africa – recorded in a series of interviews and written up into the book – will forever live on through its pages.
“She gave her heart and thoughts away in her book,” said Sylvie.
“It is like Mowgli’s story, but for Tippi it’s true.”
A book describing Tippi’s adventures has recently been published worldwide that include the most amazing photographs of the little girl and her adventurous 10 years of life.