For nearly two years now, Cape Town has been home to Hollywood actress Shannon Elizabeth Fadal, star of more than 50 films and television shows, including the global hits American Pie and Scary Movie.
“It’s a great place to live,” she said."The main reason for making South Africa my base has been to fulfill a long-held dream of making a positive, hands-on contribution to the well being of wildlife here and to help where the many wonderful folk who work so tirelessly on behalf of conservation as a whole.”
Her charity, the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation has been set up to do just that. But that’s jumping the gun somewhat.
“It all started way back,” Shannon said. “In 2001 I started a non-profit called Animal Avengers as a dog and cat rescue operation. It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming work saving, rehabilitating and re-homing strays and other city pets in need, but so worthwhile. And it remained the focus of my work with animals for more than a decade until I began to feel that I wanted to help more animals and on a much bigger scale.”
In late 2014, Shannon started to become increasingly aware of the wildlife poaching crisis and how the rapidly escalating illegal slaughter of animals such as elephants and rhinos had the potential to drive these and other magnificent creatures toward extinction. She felt that she could not just stand by any longer.
“I was determined to get involved. But to do so, and to do it right, I felt I had to come to Africa to learn firsthand what was happening.”
Based on the recommendations of a few friends, she crowdfunded for three organizations, collected physical donations via an Amazon Wish List, and set off in late 2015 on her first visit to Africa. Soon she was in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park where she was not only able to help with the fuel bill for a diesel water pump serving thirst-stressed animals in a time of crippling drought, but also to fund the more sustainable option of placing auxiliary solar pumps next to the diesel pumps, which meant that solar power could be used during the day and that the expensive diesel power could take over after sunset.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the vet-run AWARE Trust to find out how best we could use the money collected for them.
“I soon discovered they desperately needed a couple of elephant-tracking collars,” Shannon said. “These allow them to follow the elephants being treated. The bureaucracy involved in getting the collars into Zimbabwe was a challenge to put it mildly, but they finally came in, were fitted and were soon feeding back valuable data.”
After a few other stops in Zimbabwe, it was back to South Africa and a whirlwind visit to the Kruger National Park where Shannon delivered donated goods to students at the Southern African Wildlife College and to Kruger’s rangers. She then met up with Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp of Saving the Survivors to hand over the veterinary supplies and equipment collected via the Amazon Wish List. While there, she learned of a young female white rhino that had been shot through her left front leg a few weeks earlier. The Saving the Survivors team had managed to fashion a cast for for her leg and thankfully she survived the ordeal.
“It seemed appropriate we were able to purchase a proper fracture kit for them with the money raised. Not long after this, I was back in the States where I was delighted and moved to learn that the young rhino survivor had been named ‘Shannon’ in my honor.”
Happily I was soon back in Africa. In April of 2016, I flew to Kenya first to witness the ivory and rhino horn burn in Nairobi and then to travel around to some of the most prominent conservation areas, meeting as many people as possible in the field. Then I was heading south again to spend time in KwaZulu Natal, the Kruger National Park and in Malawi to follow the successful 300-kilometer translocation of 500 elephants. This was the largest and most significant translocation of elephants in history and I knew I was experiencing something truly special.”
By now, Shannon had seen enough to know that she wanted to live in Africa full time.
“So, it was briefly back to the U.S. to put all my stuff into storage, collect my beloved dog Peanut, and by the end of November 2016, I was calling Africa home.”
Already, support for two major rhino initiatives in South Africa is well under way. The first is the Rhino Pride Foundation, which came into being in 2015 after the founder, Dr. Jana Pretorius, realized that there was a great need to provide a secure physical sanctuary for rhinos under threat and to respond rapidly to get orphaned victims of poaching to veterinary help as soon as possible.
“I first met Jana in 2015 and we immediately connected,” Shannon said. “Initially we helped her with donations of veterinary supplies, and during 2016 we auctioned off a donated sculpture which brought in some much needed funds. We have also been able to contribute to security services at the sanctuary and we continue to evaluate ways we can help."
The charity’s second ongoing beneficiary is Flying for Freedom South Africa, founded by pilot Tokkie Botes, who has sponsored more than 950 hours of flying his helicopter to aid the police in poaching crime scene investigations, flying vets to emergency surgeries, and assisting with critical calls from farm owners and anti-poaching units to respond rapidly to property incursions.
"So far we have raised funds for two pairs of hi-tech goggles that allow him to continue his invaluable work, specifically on night missions,” Shannon said. “Tokkie’s helicopter fuel bill and maintenance costs about $12,000 a month and we would like to find partners help us support him with this.”
Toward the end of 2017, Shannon became involved with an initiative to produce a series of visually rich, dynamic and interactive websites on critical wildlife subjects. This gained impetus throughout 2018 and the first project – Rhino Review – a comprehensive overview addressing the situation of rhinos in Africa and Asia, is to be launched late 2018. Other reviews will follow, including on big cats, the great apes, elephants and the oceans.
“Backing these projects will be public awareness and education campaigns, summits bringing together experts from all over the world, lobbying for more effective wildlife laws and practices and much more,” Shannon said. “In view of this widening remit of our work, we decided to rebrand Animal Avengers as The Shannon Elizabeth Foundation. We will continue, however, to use Animal Avengers as the focus of initiatives to engage younger people. One of the most important things to do in conservation is to make sure that the youth everywhere are informed and ready to take on the challenge of championing wildlife and wild places.”
Our partnership with Shannon Elizabeth benefits the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation. In honor of rhino day, enter RHINO at checkout to get 20% off an order. We will donate a portion of sales to Shannon's organization!