French Girl Raised In The African Wilderness Has A Unique Connection With Animals

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Like most parents, Tippi's mother and father wanted their daughter to grow up with a strong set of morals and values. Their methods were pretty unorthodox, but it resulted in the most remarkable little girl, with intuition beyond her years.

Tippi is now living as a filmmaker in Paris. But if you met her today, you would never believe the unique upbringing she had...

Meet Alian & Sylvie

Alian Degré and Sylvie Robert were both French wildlife photographers/filmmakers living in the lush forests of Windhoek, Namibia. As you can imagine, the scenery around them was not exactly hard to look at.

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Little Tippi

They lived a life of tranquility and peace amongst the wilderness, and they couldn't have been happier. That was until the 4th of June in 1990 when their beautiful daughter Tippi was born.

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They named her after the American actress Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Although little Tippi never had any siblings, she was never alone.

Big Brother

Tippi was brought up amongst the wildlife in Namibia, gaining a level of respect for animals that most people don't have. Her first best friend was a 28-year-old elephant named Abu, she referred to him as her "big brother."

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Bizarre Friendships

Considering their mental capabilities, elephants were easier to connect with for Tippi. Her most fascinating relationship was the one she developed with Jenbee, who also happened to be a dangerous predator.

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"I Know How To Fight"

When Tippi was little, she was asked countless times what her secret was and how she was able to play with such a dangerous cat without fear. She answered: "I know how to fight so I know what to do, but I don't want to fight."

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She explained that it was important to be smart, not making any big gestures or sudden movements around them. And her most important rule? "No stick, no knife, no rifle, nothing!"

'Ooh-Bee-Doo, I Wanna Be Like You'

Tippi explained that Jenbee always wanted to play with her, because she would chase away the flies and take him around for fresh air. When she'd sit next to him, he'd know Tippi wasn't afraid, there was nothing threatening about her.

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Beyond Words

Her parents were just as amazed. "As a father," said Alain, "the exceptional thing I see in Tippi is that sort of disproportionate energy that she has and that allows her, indeed, to make contact (with the animals) like with the leopard, Jenbee."

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'No Regrets'

Her mother has no regrets with regard to how Tippi was raised. “For me, it was incredible to think you offer all of this to a child… compared to what I would be able to offer a child in the city,” said Sylvie.

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"Tippi always said that everybody was gifted and this was her gift. 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."

Parents Worried

Of course, Sylvie and Alain had their concerns. Their daughter was fearless, but animals are simply unpredictable. They worried, but Tippi had a special bond with each animal she encountered, she understood them and they understood her.

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Picture Perfect

Even creatures that were usually scared of human presence, were calm and loving around Tippi. Her parents captured childhood photos of their daughter that most parents could only dream of.

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In The Wild

The only real human contact she had was with the Himba tribe who lived in the Kalahari Desert. They welcomed her with open arms, teaching her how to forage for food, speak their language and how to shoot a bow and arrow.

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Fitting In

This was the only time Tippi really got to socialize. The children loved her, they could feel she had a unique persona and found her incredibly amusing. Soon she would learn that the children from the city were not as kind...

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Concrete Jungle

When Tippi turned 10, her parents decided it was best for her to get an education at a school and socialize with other children. It broke Tippi's heart to leave her home. They moved to France, and Tippi went from the open wilderness to four small walls.

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A Different Breed

As you can imagine, Tippi found it hard to acclimatize. She struggled to make friends, whilst sticking to schedules and rules was unfamiliar to her. After one year, her parents decided that it was best to have her home-schooled.

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The Real-Life Mowgli

Tippi would go return to Africa occasionally to visit her old friends, but her life was never the same. Once the public learned of Tippi's unique childhood, they only wanted to know more.

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The World According To Tippi

There has since been a documentary about her life called  Le Monde Selon Tippi, meaning 'The World According to Tippi', which was released in 1997. It seemed many people were fascinated with her life.

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But all the interviews and media obligations began to take a big toll on Tippi. She grew tired of feeling like her life was a show and wanted to return to some sense of normality.

Time For College

So, for a few years Tippi and her family flew under the radar. Her parents sadly divorced and after a few years of home school, it was time for her to get ready for college. This time, Tippi was a little bit more prepared for the challenge.

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Spread The Word

She attended La Sorbonne Nouvelle University and graduated with a degree in film. This paved the way for the rest of her life, because her goal was to document the role animals play in human lives, now she had the skills.

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Hibernation

Tippi went on to release wildlife documentaries, she even wrote her own book titled 'My Book Of Africa'. She leads a much more private life now. She felt she had spent enough time in front of the camera.

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Like Old Friends

She identifies as African and hopes to acquire a Namibian Passport. She has dedicated her life to projects that raise awareness for the troubles and plights of African wildlife.

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She is also the Ambassador for the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, and although she no longer lives in Africa, the animals are forever in her heart. Whenever she visits them, she feels at home with her family.