I got a considerable amount of feedback, all positive (thank you my readers) from my post There’s a Song in Every Silence.
Many of you asked if the photo was superimposed. Actually, it most likely is one of the earliest photos of Tippi Degre’ taken in Namibia where she was raised for the first ten years of her life.
Tippi was actually born in Windhoek, Africa. The desert of Namibia, to be exact. Her full name is Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degre’. She was named after Tippi Hedren, the movie star, who also started a wildlife sanctuary named Shambala, in California, and a friend named Benjamin who made sure Tippi’s mother made it to a hospital to safely deliver her daughter. Her parents, Alain Degré and Sylvie Robert, were French wildlife photographers and didn’t think twice about their decision to raise her among the biota they were documenting on a daily basis. By the time Tippi Degré was six, she’d begun to resemble a real life Mowgli.
The young girl had taken to wearing a loincloth and befriending the – sometimes huge, sometimes small – animals she’d encounter in her day-to-day. When speaking of her friends, Tippi was frank:
I don’t have friends here. Because I never see children. So, the animals are my friends. source
Tippi went on to develop relationships with a leopard nicknamed J&B, a cheetah, giant bullfrogs, lion cubs, a baby zebra, a mongoose, crocodiles, a snake, giant bullfrogs – she even rode on her friend, Linda, every now and again.
Linda was an Ostrich.
Sylvie goes on, “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.”
However, despite the apparent ease and comfort with which they interact, Sylvie and Alain always put 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.
“But 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.”
However, there were moments when Sylvie and Alain, who have since divorced, had to keep a special eye on their daughter.
Sylvie said: “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.”
This summer Tippi, now 23, passed her Baccalaureate in cinema, and entered La Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris where she follows her past two years of cinema studies at the Lyceum.
Sylvie added: “Tippi believes she is African and she wants to get a Namibian passport. She wants to become an ambassador for Namibia, and for wildlife. It is like Mowgli’s story, but Tippi’s is true.”
There is a book, Tippi of Africa , written by her parents in 1998. The photography is outstanding and the story quite special. It is a book for children and adults, but so appropriate to read to children in order to develop their wonder about nature, hopefully igniting their awareness about the plight of wildlife, and increasing tolerance for the difference in people and geography. It’s a beautiful world, and we need to save it from ourselves, for ourselves and especially for generations to come.
The featured image introducing this post shows Tippi laying next to a Caracal, the Lynx of Africa.
Thanks for stopping by. Laters, charisse