Stunning Photos of Little Girl Who Grew Up With Animals in Africa.

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Flickr via huhu33hao

It’s not often that I wish I was someone else,

but take a gander at these photos of Tippi Degre’ and see if you don’t have a touch of communing-with-nature-at-its-most-spectacular envy.

Degre’ had the good fortune to be born to creative, intelligent parents whose careers in film and photography led them to Africa in the early 90s. Her adventures there look like the stuff of (very good) Hollywood movies, but are so much more inspiring because they are real and unstudied.

It is not just the image of this child sitting calmly in the crook of a leopard’s tail while the leopard licks her, or the moment that she was captured riding on the head of an elephant with her eyes closed and her arms outstretched as if to drink in the primal essence of the world that stopped me up short. It is the beatific light and joy on her face, that seems to reflect a clear vision of oneness.

From within this child, an uncorrupted spirit glows. She appears to me to be both the oldest and the youngest of souls, and to embody that which makes human beings special—our capacity, if fear is set aside, for boundless love.

Witnessing these tender moments of her journey makes me want to do better. I offer them to you in hopes they will resonate in some important way for others too.

To see the photos of Tippi Degre growing up in Africa, visit this website.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: huhu33hao via Flickr


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About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her website.


20 Responses to “Stunning Photos of Little Girl Who Grew Up With Animals in Africa.”

  1. atenea says:

    I guess you also wish were any of the African children that grow up in the same conditions, except that they're black and go unnoticed by the media, right?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Yes. Passionately agree. I was making the same point in discussing this today. Still, the girl is unconditionally delightful, whatever her race or class.

    • Erica says:

      Atenea, I would have been equally moved by a black child in the same pictures. Erica

    • Jaime says:

      I understand why you're trying to go with this. But this little girl's parents were filmmakers or otherwise involved in the movie business, which is how they ended up in Africa. So—most of the animals in these pictures (the huge frog may be an exception) are clearly captive animals that are trained—the African children that live there would know better than to try and ride a wild ostrich, for example, which could put a hole in their skull with a single hard peck. So they grow up in the same environment but this direct contact with exotic animals is not typical of an African upbringing. The assumption that African kids are going around riding elephants and cuddling leopards (and I'm not going to assume that this is your personal assumption) is itself problematic, exoticizing, orientalist, etc. And if the same photos has been made with African children there would be people here complaining about exactly that—exoticization, etc. So I choose to just enjoy the beauty of the photos, the obvious joy of the child, and the reminder of how exhilarating it is to be so close to some truly magnificent creatures.

  2. sabine says:

    Oh my – thank you for this! It makes me hold my breath and yet breathe deeply all the same time 🙂
    What a lucky girl to have the opportunity to live so fully- an inspiration to be more involved.

  3. Claire says:

    Notice the chain around the elephant’s foot in the last photo? Very sad. Wild animals can’t be tamed and this is not an accurate reflection of animals in their natural environment.

  4. Paula says:

    I feel completely wonderful after seeing this. What an incredibly wonderful peaceful unique girl i just think she is pure gorgeous…

  5. Nate says:

    I've been to Africa many times and done many of these very things. These are not wild animals, they are tamed and are activities available to anyone with enough time and money. Not trying to make light of the situation, because I was still very much in awe of the experiences that I had while there. I do, however, feel this article makes it out to be as if this is a 'one-of-a-kind extraordinary situation'; which it is not. Also as a photographer myself images of this type are not too difficult to capture, but are still inspiring. 🙂

  6. Elizabeth Crompton says:

    I often wish I could be closer to the magnificence of wild life and nature. I do live I. A beautiful place,but nothing compares to the beauty of the outback

  7. Deborah Bountiful says:

    Tried to post to Facebook and was warned not to post sexually explicit material. OMG!

  8. kragom says:

    Yes Deborah,

    In today's society, pictures with kids are seen as paedophilia, sad but true there are just few countries where you can take pictures of, or post pictures without someone taking offence…

  9. I had visited the site to view more photos and they were amazing. I also want to visit that place to look with my own eyes.

  10. Sydney Brushwood says:

    Just wanted to point out that its a cheetah thats licking her not a leopard lol. still very good photos 🙂 very enjoyable

  11. loveyogalivewell says:

    These pictures ARE beautiful and thanks for sharing them Erica. I had seen them quite some time ago as they did the rounds with South Africans online in the past, but as a white girl who grew up in Africa I must just echo that this is really a bit of a false picture. As pointed out these animals are tame/ captive probably because they're used for films.

    This is not connection to nature in its unspoilt state really although the connection between her and these tame animals is clearly genuine. Think of them like pictures of cute child with their dog or cat but with an African animal theme rather than taking them as a reflection of reality at face value. It's a bit like watching Out of Africa and thinking you understand Africa. Really they romanticise what growing up and living in Africa is for most Africans, black and white and pink and yellow. It has nothing to do with race…it's just that to an eye that is unfamiliar with the real Africa, these pictures perpetuate a skewed perception of an entire continent as one country where either one of two scenarios takes place: animals and people all run wild and free together, or little black children are starving and in need of a hand-out and privileged little white children lead a charmed life with a bit of light socialising with the natives…a bit off the mark really.

    A real childhood for most kids in Africa looks quite different, but I totally get where you're coming from in your reading of them and thanks again for sharing and sparking some thought and further reading into these lovely, if slightly misleading (to some) images.

    One thing we can all agree on is clearly being close to nature and animals in whatever form we can be makes us deeply happy. That's an indisputable truth that these pictures show – this little girl is utterly and completely happy. We can learn something from that.

  12. John says:

    Imagine how Tippi's perspective on life differs from other young women in Paris.

  13. annmedonnacross says:

    Its not so much whether its an african child or a white child . Its about a family out of their natural environment (the city) letting their little girl embrace nature in all its wonderment that makes these pictures melt-worthy !

  14. Paula says:

    i always cringe when i see irresponsible, reckless, ego driven, numbskull parents subject their precious, incomprehensibly valuable children to HARM’S WAY with “cute” animals. animals are UNPREDICTABLE and WILD in this case, *tamed?* seriously?? i see child endangerment for the sake of entertainment which is also known as EXPLOITATION. get a grip.

  15. Mary says:

    These are beautiful photos. Take them for what they are. I once had the experience of riding on an elephant and a camel. This was at a circus many years ago. I was a child but I will always remember it.

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