When this self-proclaimed “vegan hillbilly” first laid eyes on a rotten cabin in the woods of Missouri, he saw potential that no one else did.
He Started With This…
On a trip into the woods, Richard Aiken spotted a humble rotten cabin deep in the woods of Missouri. He realized that there was something incredibly striking about it. He felt drawn to its simplicity. After spending a mere $100 for it, he would have no idea how much the property would change over the next 10 years.
At One With Nature
For Aiken though, the accolades and career achievements were something he worked hard for, but his real passion was nature. Having been vegan for a long time, Aiken was always drawn to nature and the wild. The mathematician had always spent lots of time in the local woods and forests, but his family only realized how much he loved nature when he announced that he wanted to live in the wild. Despite being an unexpected decision, it was one that his family honored…
His Family Was Worried
Being the rational man that he was, his family found Aikens more recent fascination with nature unnerving. While enjoying time out is one thing, opting to move out into the woods was another subject altogether. They were an affluent family and that meant living in a certain way. While they were ready to accept that he loved nature a lot, the idea of him simply packing up and moving into the woods was a bit much to handle. Ultimately though, it was his decision…
Into The Wild
However, Aiken’s family couldn’t really do much to stop him. Aiken was a grown man and the main breadwinner of the house. If he decided to pursue his dream, his family would have to either support his decision or simply let him go. While Aiken understood that he was already 65 years old and that surviving out in nature wasn’t that easy, he ultimately decided to put his foot down and stick to the plan. There was just one problem…
For Richard, one of the main factors driving his decision was that he wanted to retire in the wild but planning for retirement isn’t easy. Even if you’re a qualified person and earn a good salary, it’s not easy moving into this phase of your life. While Aiken wasn’t necessarily poor, he didn’t have a lot of cash to support him without a steady income. Buying land and a home were out of the option. Aiken would have to consider all options…
A Friend Helped Him Out
They say it’s often more about who you know than what. This turned out to be true when a friend approached Richard, offering him a cabin in the woods. Knowing that Richard was cash strapped, he wanted to help him out by offering him the cabin for free. Being a respectful person, Aiken accepted but offered to pay him a small sum of $100 for the gesture. However, when Richard first saw the cabin, he realized why it was so cheap!
There Was a Catch
Although this man, who Richard referred to as Billy, was so helpful towards the early stages of this project, he wasn’t going to just give the cabin away for nothing. Well, technically speaking. He actually did tell Richard that he could have it for nothing but under one condition. “You can have it for nothin’ if you haul away the junk,” Billy said. This seemed like a reasonable catch for a free cabin. But then Richard saw it for the first time…
When Richard eventually decided to go out and see the cabin first-hand, he realized why his friend had been selling it so cheaply. The cabin, if you could still call it that, looked more like a pile of firewood than anything else. The wooden planks had started to rot and time had taken its toll on the small structure. According to Richards daughter, “This (was) the original 1830’s log cabin he started out with”. Despite being a wreck, Richard had a plan for the 200-year-old cabin…
While others would have taken one look at the disheveled cabin in the woods and simply walked on, Richard saw a lot of opportunity in the structure. He considered it a ‘real find’ and remained very optimistic by saying, “It was two stories, with a very large ‘pen’ of about 21-22 feet square,” and that “The material was massive white oak beams, hand hewn and squared with half dovetail notches. Most logs were in excellent condition.” He had committed himself to renovating the ‘unrenovatable’…
A View from Every Angle
If you start in the top left-hand image and go clockwise, you’ll start by looking at the north side of the cabin, followed by the south side, the west side and finally the east side. The west side once had a window and the east side was where an old fireplace once stood. This was plenty to inspire Richard and give him an idea of how he wanted to lay out the new cabin. But he also had to deal with the inside…
Pile Of Planks
Upon closer inspection, Richard realized how much junk there was in the cabin. Most of it was just old, rotten wood and before he could do anything else, he would have to clear all of it. “[The cabin] was a trash bin, so [Billy] wanted to get all the trash out,” he said. “I agreed to remove not just the cabin, but all the junk. I removed all the junk, took it to a dump and left it pretty pristine.”
Cleaning Up the Place
Naturally, the inside of the derelict cabin was even more chaotic than the outside of it. Starting from the top left and going clockwise, the inside can be seen looking toward the fireplace – an area that Richard was probably most excited to renovate. Next came the inside part looking toward the window, followed by the staircase leading to the second floor. Finally, the part facing the front of the cabin can be seen. Richard certainly had a lot of work to do.
It was amazing that the cabin had remained, for the most part, intact over the years. The main reason for this was that it had been covered with clapboard. As opposed to using crude logs to build the old cabin, clapboard was believed to be a more civilized alternative. Not only did Richard need to get rid of all the junk upon Billy’s request, but he would also need to tear away all of the clapboards in order to properly dismantle the place.
Beginning The Restoration
Richard never doubted that the project was going to take a lot of time and energy. Based on the condition of the cabin, he knew that this was going to be a tough project. At first, his family was skeptical, but after a while, they decided to lend a hand. Having his children on board added some much-needed muscle to the project and while progress was slow, it was steady. However, more problems with the cabin soon became apparent. They had a long way to go…
One thing that Richard spent a lot of time doing was meticulously labeling every single log. He assigned directions to each log depending on where they were situated. “The system I chose was two directions, first the side on the north, south, east, and west, and secondly the direction that log was ‘pointed’ to,” Richard wrote. Also, there was a specific number-letter code for each log. For example, if a log was ES 7, it meant that it is the seventh log on the east side.
Removing the Beams
One issue that Richard faced while deconstructing the old cabin to make way for the new one was how to remove the old oak beams. “How does one remove the 20 foot heavy 12 inch by 12 inch oak beams from the top down?” he asked himself. After consulting a friend of his, who proposed what he described as a “brute force method,” he ultimately decided to go with it. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to do this alone.
More Help from More Friends
The friend in question, who goes by the name of Two Bears, helped Richard dismantle the beams from the top down by simply poking them off, almost like a game of Jenga. Richard was very skeptical about the idea, especially because he didn’t want to break anything. “If they break, that means they were too rotten anyway,” Two Bears said. In the end, he placed his faith in him and nearly all of the logs made it down in one piece.
Site Selection Was Key
It didn’t take long for Richard to develop an idea of where exactly he wanted the cabin to stand. For a start, he knew that he needed it to be elevated above any potential swamp areas. However, he did want it close to some sort of body of water. “In our case, the site was about 20 feet above a marshy area and remarkably had a hidden spring along the east side of the cabin,” he wrote. Richard also wanted a fair amount of open space too.
Surrounded by Nature
In terms of the environment that Richard was building his cabin in, he wanted the front of it to face north in order to have a pleasant view. However, probably the most exciting thing about where the cabin is located is the fact that it is right in the middle of the woods. Richard did admit though that they had lost some trees during the reconstruction. Not to mention a tree that specifically needed to be removed because it was looming over the cabin location.
Missouri, We Have A Problem
One of Richard’s main goals in the restoration process was to try and create a basement. The idea was that this could be used to store essential items like food and supplies more easily. However, pretty soon after excavating 6 feet deep, the family hit solid bedrock. Richard then realized that his only option was to build the cabin above ground in order to maximize on space and structural integrity. Being a clever mathematician, Richard devised a pretty ingenius solution!
Aiken’s idea was to raise the cabin instead and use white oak to help create the floor of the structure. While Richard was disappointed about the fact that he would have to cut down a number of trees to build his cabin, he had come too far to stop now and was making good progress. Pretty soon, the cabin started looking more like a home – but Richard and his family were about to make a discovery that would make them the talk of the town…
The Hidden Lake
Things were already tough enough during Richards restoration challenge, but they made a discovery that soon forced them to make some critical decisions. It turned out that the cabin was resting on a hidden water table and as they excavated, they learned that a secret lake had been lying just underneath the lake. Rather than being disappointed, Richard decided to install a small dock – now they had a family lake! But pretty soon, an even bigger problem would become apparent to Richard during the renovation…
When it came to building the foundation of the cabin, Richard knew that it needed to be sturdy and immovable. The way he started the foundation was by digging holes three-feet deep before placing flat stones on top of them. He did acknowledge that many people who have built cabins in the past have not resorted to this, especially if the ground is already firm enough. However, he wasn’t planning on taking any risks. Next was the bedrock…
Dealing With Bedrock
The next stage was to see how deep the bedrock was from where they would build the cabin. Richard knew that generally, bedrock in Missouri is about five feet under the ground and so this was enough of an indicator to make him confident that they could build the cabin on top of the bedrock. This also meant that Richard would be able to construct a basement. To successfully do this, he extended the foundation walls to a further one foot above the ground.
Now that the foundation of the cabin had been established, Richard was now in a position where he could start building the new cabin on top of it. Over the poured foundation, he added masoned stones and processed oak on top of them. Richard regretfully chopped down eight oak trees for this part of the project but knew that it would be necessary to give the floor of his home the sturdiness it required. After just a couple of days, a cabin started to take shape…
First Signs of an Entrance
After just a few days, it was already clear where the entrance would stand and Richard couldn’t help but document his progress through the power of photography. This photo shows Richard’s son standing in the area where the front entrance will be. A basic outline of the door can be seen. “We have placed the first couple of logs around the structure according to the labeling,” he wrote. This would prove to be one of the easier stages of the project.
How Did He Lift Those Beams?
After removing the old oak beams from the derelict cabin, Richard had come full circle and now needed to work out how to lift oak beams onto his cabin. He didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a crane and he knew that it would be difficult to operate one in this location. In the end, he decided to go with a manual heavy-duty material lift. Before he knew it, Richard would have a fully-formed roof and a fully-shaped cabin.
Chinking & Daubing
One process that Richard knew he’d need to do at some point during the reconstruction was something called “chinking.” This is basically where one fills the gaps of a cabin with whatever works. At first, the family tried using “backer rods” but they ultimately proved to be too expensive. Styrofoam also proved to be challenging. Chicken wire was ultimately the material that Richard went with. It was cheap, malleable, and worked well with daubing material, which is the second part of filling the gaps.
While the idea of renovating an old family cabin may sound like a fun exercise for a family, the truth was that Richard’s family had lost interest. They had started to complain about the work and seemed to lose interest in the project altogether. Pretty soon, his family decided to stop helping him and his wife said that she didn’t want to invest any more money into the project. However, Richard persevered an pretty soon, his time and effort would pay off…
My Kind Of Cabin
With all the effort that Richard and his family were putting into the cabin, pretty soon it had started taking shape. Richard had done his research before setting out on the project and had wanted to recreate the log cabin in am traditional 1830 style. Despite all the troubles and hardships Richard and his family had faced over the course of the project, it started to feel worthwhile as the cabin took form. All in all, he claims to have spent between $30,000 and $40,000 on the restoration project…
Using Old Oak
Because Richard was a dedicated nature-lover, he wanted as much of the cabin to be built in an environmentally friendly way as possible. One technique they used was to utilize wood from oak trees that had already fallen. A good example of this was the beautiful staircase that Richard had crafted out of fallen oak wood and he paid special attention to the door, which he had custom designed by a carpenter. But that was far from their greatest achievement on the project…
He Designed His Own Fireplace
Richard realized that in order to live comfortably, he would need a source of heat for the cold and cooking. So, over the 10-year restoration period, he designed his own fireplace, based on those of the 19th century. “[The Rumford hearth] is a brilliant design widely adopted to optimize heat transfer within a room,” Richard said. “The hearth is even with the flooring so that moving a chair or stool close to the fire is facilitated. The hearth is wide and deep for cooking.”
He Even Built A Loft
Richard’s next big issue was creating enough light in the cabin for it to be liveable in. He opted to go with candles instead of light fittings to save on costs and be more eco-friendly. He even went as far as creating a small loft under the newly built ceiling as a separate sleeping area. Not only was it a comfortable and relatively sizeable area, but it also gave access to a small window which helped to provide the cabin with more ambient lighting.
A Gift From The Amish
As Richard neared completion on his cabin project, he received a heartwarming gift from a local Amish family that had watched him build the cabin over the last 10 years. They created a beautiful, handmade dining table for Richard to put in the cabin so that his family could enjoy meals there. The table fitted perfectly and was easy to move around. Eventually though, Richard had to point out that the table was not a housewarming gift after all…
I’m Not Moving In
After spending the last 10 years of his life renovating the cabin, Richard announced that he would no longer be moving into the cabin. He had set out with that in mind, but over the course of the project, decided that it would be best to stay in civilization and use the cabin as a family holiday home instead. Rather than a permanent home, Richards family now had an awesome vacation spot and second home. The Aiken family then decided to share their story with the world…
Sharing His Story
Aiken realized that it would be a shame to keep this amazing story entirely to himself and decided to share the story of his new homes transformation with the world. Not being too savvy with social media, Richard simply started sharing posts of his cabin on his Instagram account. His first post was one of his family enjoying a Thanksgiving meal in the cabin. However, it wouldn’t take long until the ‘vegan hillbilly’ became a viral sensation…
As Richard kept sharing pictures of his cabin project on various online platforms like Reddit and Instagram, the internet fell in love with his story. He posted pictures bout the cabin before and after the renovation and spoke about his views as a vegan and environmentally-friendly building processes. A lot of people were inspired by Aikens idea and most were simply blown away by the radical transformation that the cabin had undergone over the last 10 years. Richard’s story had become a viral sensation!
From This…To This!
Richard and his family had spent the last 10 years toiling, sweating and making sacrifices to ensure that the cabin would be completed. Now they could finally say the job was done and that they’d managed to achieve something quite remarkable as a family. What was once a mess in the woods was now a beautiful new home – and one that architects and builders would be proud of! However, that wasn’t the only thing that had undergone amazing transformations over the years…
The cabin had undergone some pretty impressive changes over the course of the last 10 years and Richard was really proud with the final result. The cabin looked amazing and all for only $100! But that wasn’t the only thing that had changed over the restoration process. Richard and his family had also become much stronger as a unit by learning how to work together to overcome challenges and complete something creative. “I hope I shall never finish working with this log cabin,” he said.
Whatever The Weather
Over the course of the last 10 years, Richard and his family had constructed a log cabin that could be lived in throughout the year. The cabin had been built sturdily and would be able to handle, rain, snow and even the heat of summer pretty well. Because no one lives on the premises at all times, Richard let the Amish family take care of the property. He visits the cabin once a week and often spends time with family over special occasions.
He’s Achieved So Much
Richard Aiken is a man who has known quite a lot of success over his life. Being a full-time academic, Aiken had managed to achieve quite a long list of accolades over the course of his career. Not only had he managed to raise and nurture a loving family, but he was also well-respected in his local town of Springfield. He is considered a renaissance man and has managed to earn two doctorates, a medical degree and even published a book, The New Ancestral Diet.
Meet the Real-Life Mowgli, the Girl Who Was Raised by Wild Animals
Born to wildlife photographer-filmmakers in June of 1990, Tippi didn’t have an ordinary childhood. Her parents, a French couple, wanted to raise their daughter somewhat unconventionally. With that, Sylvie Robert and Alain Degré relinquished their lives back home for the freedom of nature in Southern Africa. There, Tippi grew up amongst wild animals for the first 10 years of her life. She spent her days not only making friends with elephants and cuddling meerkats but also becoming one with nature as the real-life Mowgli from The Jungle Book.
A Magical Decision
While this kind of lifestyle isn’t for everyone, Tippi’s mother definitely has no regrets about the decision to give her daughter this beautifully different and unique upbringing. During an interview with The Telegraph, Sylvie revealed that “it was magical to be able to be free in this nature with this child, she was a very lucky little girl — she was born and raised until the age of 10 totally in the wild. It was just the three of us living in the wild with the animals and not too many humans.”
Strong Instincts From an Early Age
Sylvie also disclosed that when she was a little girl, Tippi’s daily life and responsibilities consisted of tasks that included making sure monkeys didn’t steal her bottle. Aside from that, Sylvie recalls that on many occasions, Tippi would call her over before pointing “to an elephant eating from a palm tree and say ‘mummy, be quiet, we’re going to frighten him.'” While most children at that age wouldn’t have such strong instincts in regard to wild animals, it was evidently clear that Tippi was different…
World of Imagination
We think it’s safe to say that Tippi was quickly able to acclimate and integrate herself into the lives of the wildlife that surrounded her, despite her young age. It was pretty obvious to her parents that Tippi was fearless as she — according to her mother — “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.” And what a beautiful imagination this little girl had…
A Quick Learner
By the time she was just 10 months old, Tippi was already on the move. While many babies at this point in life are usually still crawling on all fours, Tippi was not only walking around but also running through the jungle with her wild pals. Considering, though, that Sylvie mentioned Tippi spent her infancy making sure no wild animal stole her bottle away from her, this early development must have made it that much easier to keep up.
She Understood Danger
At this point, we can all admit that Tippi didn’t necessarily have a normal upbringing and wasn’t an ordinary kid. While most children learn how to look both ways before crossing the street or how to tie their shoelaces, Tippi faced other dangers that her parents avidly taught her how to deal with from a very young age. She learned several survival techniques as a child including constantly having to be on guard and watching out for ferocious beasts and anything else that could harm her.
Can’t Trust Everyone
At one point, Tippi met and befriended a lion cub named Mufasa — a moment that was captured in photographs taken by her parents. A year after meeting her friend, Tippi and her parents went for a visit with Mufasa. Naturally, that little cub that Tippi once knew had grown into a very large cat. While the lion was super friendly with Tippi, even giving her a friendly rub, his tail nearly knocked her over. That’s when her parents decided to step in and keep her away from the kitty cat.
It Was Incredible
As we mentioned before, Tippi’s parents were extremely pleased with their decision to raise Tippi in Africa. They had not one single regret and even admitted that it “was incredible to think you offer all of this to a child. Because I was at ease, because I liked it, and because we had lived with the meerkats in the Kalahari desert for six years before Tippi was born, I believed it was fantastic to have that to offer to a child compared to what I would be able to offer to a child living in a city for example.”
Abu the Elephant
Tippi was only a year and a half when she met her dear friend, Abu — an elephant. While you’d think that she’d see the size of this wild animal and run in fear, Tippi did the exact opposite. Instead, the little baby would look into Abu’s eyes and speak to him as if he was an old friend. According to Sylvie, the bond that her daughter and Abu had made so quickly was just absolutely “incredible.” If only we could have been there to see it for ourselves…
Her Best Friend, J&B
Aside from her friendship with Abu, Tippi once revealed during an interview with The Telegraph that her best friend is a leopard named J&B. He had been adopted by a local farmer, as his mother died in a trap. Although he was extremely calm with Tippi, he certainly never lost his killer instincts. Tippi even recalled a time that the cat attacked another child. Once Tippi walked up to him and told him to stop, though, J&B retreated and ran away…
There’s no denying that Tippi had something special, even from a young age. Unlike most people, Tippi was able to make connections with animals on levels that many can’t even begin to grasp. Her mother, Sylvie, explained that “Tippi always said that everybody was gifted and this was her gift.” This gift — being able to communicate with wildlife — allowed her to meet many types of animals, and her parents were luckily able to capture some pretty amazing photos along the way…
Friends With All
Let’s be real — most little girls would cry at the very thought or possibility of even touching a frog. But like we’ve mentioned before, Tippi was different. She was friends with animals that were not only 10 times her size but with small, and even slimy ones as well. Here, in this photo, Sylvie and Alain were able to capture a sweet moment shared between their wild child and an African Bullfrog, the largest frog in South Africa.
Riding an Ostrich
While most ostriches in the wild would normally run away from humans — as they see them as predators — it seems like Tippi won this one over. It actually turns out that this ostrich, Linda, was owned by a local farmer. As you can tell from this photo, Tippi looks carefree and at peace. With the wind blowing through her hair, Tippi rides atop this large bird’s back with a wide grin plastered on her face. And we have to say, Linda looks pretty content as well…
Throughout their travels, it wasn’t uncommon for the Degré family to encounter tribespeople. In fact, Tippi even made friends with the bushmen and people of the Himba tribe in the Kalahari. Not only did the tribe teach Tibbi how to survive on roots and berries as well as use a bow and arrow, but they also taught her their language. According to Sylvie, Tippi spent a lot of time with the tribe, revealing that “when we filmed the San Bushmen of northern Namibia we would let Tippi spend the day with the group without us until she would fall asleep among the kids.”
One With the Tribe
From the very beginning, Tippi was accepted by the local tribe children. When she and her parents arrived at this particular village, the children fell in love with Tippi within a matter of seconds. According to Sylvie, “Tippi was the clown and people found her so cute.” With that being said, the tribe children were completely accepting of Tippi. They absolutely loved playing with her and were especially fascinated by her hair. Sadly, Tippi never really found that acceptance when she left Africa to return to Europe.
When Tippi was around six years old, she and her parents took a family trip to the Mauritian offshore islands, which happen to play a crucial role in supporting some of the largest breeding colonies of seabirds in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, it’s really no surprise that they decided to vacation here. What else isn’t very surprising? The fact that Tippi basically became one with the flock. Here, you can see Tippi hanging with her new friends — arms outstretched and completely in sync with her surroundings.
That’s One Brave Girl
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, there’s no way we could ever be okay with a snake slithering up our face, no matter what age. But once again, Tippi isn’t just anyone and her strong connection with animals is crystal clear in this photo. Tippi happily holds this snake as it slithers up her bare skin to give her a smooch. Her parents were able to snap this photo at the perfect moment, showcasing just how brave this little girl is. Seriously — would you not run away screaming?
While most children fall asleep with a stuffed animal of some sort, Tippi really gave that concept a whole new meaning. Aside from playing with wildcats, Tippi also enjoys taking the occasional snooze with them too. Here, in this photo, Tippi is cuddling a lion cub as she naps in the desert sun. From the looks of it, this kitty cat doesn’t seem to mind and looks very much at peace with Tippi’s presence. This truly isn’t something you see every day…
Those Rules Don’t Apply
Unlike the “Do Not Feed the Animals” signs you typically see at a zoo, there aren’t really any rules in the wild. Take this photo, for instance. Here, we can see Tippi feeding a zebra on top of a hill. And we have to say, the zebra seems pretty enthusiastic about whatever Tippi has to offer in that container. As per usual, Tippi is totally laid-back and calm as she feeds the animal. And just like that, she has a new friend! Then again, food is a great way to make friends no matter what or who you are…
As Tippi got older, she began to take an interest in film and decided to study cinema in France. Although her parents are filmmakers, it still seems a bit surprising that she didn’t choose to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. However, Tippi is still very much involved when it comes to wildlife. She spends a lot of her time working for conservation — protecting wild species and their habitats in order to prevent species from going extinct — and filmmaking is an undeniably effective way to spread awareness.
How awesome is this photo?! While it doesn’t come as much of a shock that Tippi rode elephants throughout her childhood, there’s no denying that this is a beautifully captured moment. You can see the genuine bond these two share with each other. The fact that this big guy is cradling Tippi in his trunk just goes to show the amount of respect, trust, and love they have for one another. Aside from the fact that Tippi looks absolutely serene and peaceful, it’s clear that this elephant enjoys her company just as much.
We think it goes without saying that Tippi was accepted with open…trunks into the local elephant herd. Not only were they more than happy to give her a lift when she needed but they were also welcoming when it came to their bathing and cooling downtime in the local pond. From the photo, it’s clear that Tippi is excited as she splashes the water. Still, her big friend remains calm, showing once again just how trusting the elephants were of her.
Not Like Most Girls
Although Tippi’s childhood was unconventional, there’s no doubt in our minds that she loved every second of it. From her home to her clothing and especially her friends, Tippi wasn’t an ordinary little girl. While most young girls grow up wearing dresses, this wild child primarily wore animal skins and loincloths. She carried a suitcase made from local trees whereas most little girls carry purses around. Tippi’s version of cuddling with stuffed animals was snuggling with live animals — something that almost no other young girl would do…
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Besides the local tribe children, Tippi’s playmates — as we’ve mentioned — were animals, which also included monkeys. Not only do monkeys have many similarities to current day humans but they have also come to be known as one of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. This photo, for instance, displays the deep understanding and bond that Tippi clearly shares with this animal. As they sit there studying each other, the monkey puts its hand out for Tippi to gently caress.
During the early years of her childhood, Tippi’s parents home-schooled her. They used their knowledge as well as the environment to teach their daughter all she needed to know. Since turtles can teach great moral lessons about patience and determination — you all remember The Tortoise and the Hare — it’s believed that Sylvie and Alain used the behavior of turtles as well as other animals in various lessons. After attending public school for a short time when they moved back to Europe, Tippi and her parents realized that homeschooling was the best option.
Part of the Herd
If you didn’t believe us before about Tippi getting accepted into the herd, then you will after taking a look at this photo. Let’s be real — you can see just how much these two love each other. Despite the fact that the African Elephant is one of the largest land animals on Earth, Tippi doesn’t seem to mind its size. They can grow up to 13 feet tall and weigh up to seven tons. These magnificent creatures can also live up to 70+ years old!
Capturing the Most Beautiful Moments
In all honesty, there’s no denying that Tippi hands-down has the best childhood photo album to ever exist. Thanks to Sylvie and Alain, you’ve already gotten to see tons of moments that the wild child has shared with various animals including elephants, lions, monkeys, and even turtles. At this point, it’s safe to say that Sylvie and Alain have an eye when it comes to not only raising their daughter but also capturing the most special moments.
Water for Elephants
From the looks of it, riding elephants came with ease for Tippi, even as a little girl. In fact, it was a bonding activity with a friend rather than a tourist attraction. The unfortunate reality is that many circuses and other forms of entertainment have been criticized for mistreating their animals. Many of these animals are forced to perform stunts and entertain spectators, and sometimes under very harsh conditions. In the wild, though, life for these creatures is a lot more peaceful…
It made no difference what kind of animal it was — cute or ugly, big or small — because Tippi never discriminated. She had enough love to share with each and every single animal around her. If that wasn’t clear to you guys by now, this picture will help you gain a better understanding. Once again, you can see Tippi getting close with another friend for a big kiss. This time, though, it’s a tiny and slimy reptile. While most parents would pull their child away in fear of them getting bitten, Sylvie and Alain knew their little girl could handle the situation just fine on her own.
From Loincloth to Jeans
Similar to our favorite little Mowgli from The Jungle Book, Tippi spent the first 10 years of her life in minimal clothing. Many times, she is photographed wearing just a loincloth or other light fabrics. There’s a reason for this, though. Tippi wore these garments throughout her childhood in order to keep cool in the hot African climate. We can only imagine how challenging it must have been for her to have to transition to everyday clothing, like jeans and a t-shirt.
Discovery Channel Documentaries
When Tippi was 12 years old, she and her parents returned to Africa to film a few documentaries for the Discovery Channel. While Sylvie remembers it being a wonderful experience, Tippi disagreed. During her interview with The Telegraph, the wild child revealed that “it was great to see the elephants and the lions, but it would have been better if it hadn’t always been in front of the camera. It was hard work, it was difficult, it was hot, and I was not happy all the time. I was worn out at the end of it.”
Tame the Wild Beasts
As you can tell by now, Tippi was photographed with various different wild animals throughout her life. It turns out, though, that many of these animals were tamed by local farmers. Sylvie revealed that “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.”
The Definition of Fearless
According to Tippi’s parents, their little girl never had a problem approaching any species. She welcomed any and all animals into her life whether they were bigger or smaller than her. It made no difference what kind of reputation the animal had because Tippi truly saw the best in each one. She was, and most likely still is, the definition of fearless. Just take a look at this photo — just from one glance, it’s clear that Tippi has zero problems cuddling up with these meerkats.
Despite the fact that Tippi was constantly amongst thousands of wild animals, she was actually only bitten once. Her first bite was on the nose by a meerkat, which is sort of ironic considering the fact that Tippi’s middle name — Okanti — means mongoose or meerkat. Besides that little nibble, Tippi only dealt with one other incident in which Cindy the baboon attacked Tippi’s hair and ended up pulling out a handful. Sylvie believes that this was done as an act of jealousy towards Tippi.
Focal Point in the Media
When the rest of the world learned of Tippi, her life story became a focal point in the media. People really couldn’t get enough of this wild child and wanted to know everything about her experiences. Multiple documentaries have been made about the real-life Mowgli including Le Monde Selon Tippi (The World According to Tippi), Tippi en Afrique, and Around the World With Tippi — which included six wildlife and environmental television documentaries that were released on the Discovery Channel in 2004.
After living in the African jungles for her first 10 years, it came time for Tippi to enter mainstream society. That’s when she and her parents moved back to city life in France. The Degré family moved into a small flat that didn’t even have enough room for a dog. At this point, Tippi realized that her life was going to change. After all, she went from having the whole African continent as her backyard to a concrete jungle gym — the very definition of urban living.
Acclimating to a “Normal” Life
It’s no surprise that Tippi had a tough time transitioning into her new life for the first few years. While her parents tried to help her acclimate by sending her to a local state school in Paris, Tippi found that she had little in common with the other children. At this point, she and her parents realized that homeschooling was just the way to go. In order to alleviate her desire to be around animals, Tippi’s parents bought a budgie — a long-tailed, seed-eating parrot that can also be called a parakeet. According to Sylvie, the little birdie would go everywhere with Tippi, “even on the train flying right by her side, sitting on her head or falling asleep on her shoulder.”
Ambassador for Namibia
As Tippi got older and looked back at her childhood, she realized just how blessed she was to have had the experiences that she did. She began running her own website by the time she was 10 years old to discuss her experiences living in the wild writing, “My name is Tippi. I am African and I was born 10 years ago in Namibia.” According to Sylvie, Tippi believes that she’s African and dreams of obtaining a Namibian passport. At one point, she wanted to become an ambassador for Namibia but the pressures of modern life distracted her from her life’s calling…
Following in Her Parents’ Footsteps
Despite the fact that all she wanted to do was return to her life in the wild, Tippi knew that she must first complete her education. Once she had fully adjusted to her new life, Tippi began attending public school and eventually went to La Sorbonne Nouvelle University. There, she studied film and was last reported supervising tigers at Fort Boyard — which happens to be the site of a popular game show. This picture of Tippi was taken at the FICMA, an international environmental film festival.
Believe it or not, but Tippi isn’t the only kid to have lived this kind of life. In fact, there have been several other cases in which a child was raised by animals. For example, Marina Chapman — who was believed to have been kidnapped and later abandoned. For five years, Chapman found refuge with a group of capuchin monkeys who taught the girl how to catch birds and rabbits with her bare hands. Then, in 2001, a young Chilean boy was found to have been living amongst a pack of dogs for two years. The dogs reportedly protected him and helped him hunt for food.