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This week I wish I was…Watching my 8 year old digging for ant lions and discovering geckos

Tippi Degré was born in Namibia in 1990 to wildlife film-maker parents.  Already it would seem improbable that she was destined to have a run- of-the-mill childhood.  Her first ten years was indeed pretty special as her parent’s work took them travelling throughout southern Africa.  Namibia’s game ranches, conservancies and the tribal lands of the Himba and San Bushmen became as familiar to her as the local neighbourhoods of a town-child. Rather like a modern-day Rudyard Kipling (and his Jungle Book creation, Mowgli), Tippi not only made herself at home in the bush but also befriended its inhabitants, displaying unusual fearlessness to the creatures she encountered.  Pictures of Tippi scaling the trunk of an elephant, reclining against the furry flank of a leopard and riding an ostrich depict a very unusual child.  How cool that your best mate is a meerkat and that, barely knee-high to a grasshopper, you can tick off a leopard by tapping it on the nose and saying “stop that!”.  Her mother, Sylvie Robert, developed the belief that her scruffy little rough diamond of a daughter could communicate with the animals and regarded them as her contemporaries. Not all children are Tippis but they all certainly have the capacity to be captivated by Africa and its wildlife.  How tangible is the excitement of children when they first see the tent they will spend the night in, or the Samburu warrior who shows them how to shoot a bow and arrow, and the antics of geckos catching moths around a light at night!  While Nintendo and the TV do provide handy distractions for kids, how can they possibly compete with excavating the tiny funnels of ant lions in the sand, or the excitement of hearing a hyena whooping at night?  And, selfishly, how cool to benefit from a second childish euphoria while you watch all this as a grown-up? Furthermore, and probably stating the obvious here, but if the next generation don’t get to enjoy the barefoot freedom of wild places and develop an understanding of its importance for our future, how on earth can we expect them to take an interest in conserving it? Find out more about going on safari with your children. Check out some ideas for child-friendly trips to Africa. Check out Tippi’s web-site.

Posted by: Amanda Mitchell

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