Our Foundation

Our roots

The roots of the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation reach back to 2001 in Los Angeles, California, when Shannon Elizabeth founded the non-profit dog and cat rescue, Animal Avengers. By 2014, her awareness of broader conservation issues, particularly the developing poaching crisis in Africa, had grown to the extent that she wanted to help more animals and on a much bigger scale. After extensive research and a couple of trips to Africa, by the end of 2016, Shannon was calling Cape Town, South Africa “home.”

In 2018, a new chapter of the charity was established in South Africa, and the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation (SEF) was born, with wildlife conservation firmly set as its core purpose. The remit of SEF now embraces not only a grants program, but the organization’s in-house initiatives which focus on four key verticals: Education & Awareness, Youth Empowerment, Law & Legislation, and Land & Community.  (As part of these developments, Animal Avengers was incorporated into the vision as the brand expression of the SEF Youth Empowerment Initiative.)

At SEF, we believe that the greatest achievements in conservation derive from cooperation and collective support for common goals. By inspiring united action in championing wildlife and wild places, we are committed to strengthening and broadening our partnerships with like-minded global organizations.

The Shannon Elizabeth Foundation is registered in the United States of America as a fully compliant 501(c)(3), and in South Africa as a registered non-profit organization (NPO) with the South African Revenue Service and as a Public Benefit Organization (PBO) with the Department of Social Economic Development.

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Why we do what we do.

We strive to be a catalyst for positive change.

At the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation, we strive every day to be a catalyst for positive change in actions and attitudes towards wildlife and their natural habitats. This is our mission. We feel a deep connection to the world and its inherent beauty. But every single day, we also see shameful examples of the reckless destruction of nature. We see animals being treated as commodities and wild landscapes being stolen for selfish gain. We have no right to do this, yet it goes on all over the planet and with very few consequences for the perpetrators.

As the Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke so rightly said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” For us to stay quiet and do nothing would make us no better than the greed and arrogance we denounce. We must, therefore, stand up for what we believe. We must share our voices and our energies and encourage others to join the movement towards a better, healthier planet.  We hope you will join us in this crusade.

And please, never forget…we are all one. What we do to the animals and the planet, we also do to ourselves.

Why did we create our four initiatives?

Our goal at SEF is to create sustainable programs that have an impact and are scalable.

First came our decision to use our collective communication and publishing skills to create educational platforms to share knowledge about the crucial conservation and environmental issues of our time. This led to our Education & Awareness Initiative with the launch of our first project, Rhino Review.

Next came the realization that fixing the environmental mess that our generation has caused is a multi-generational task. The passion and resolve of young people are vital, and so our youth program was born.

We then found that it’s tough to do sustainable work without having the backing of the law. Rules and regulations must be on our side to cement real change. Lobbying and working as advisors to lawmakers have become essential elements of our work.

Finally, protecting the land. We know that this cannot be achieved by simply throwing money at perimeter fences and surveillance. The real key to sustainable conservation success is good neighborliness.

Conservation areas in the developing world are frequently surrounded by desperately poor communities for whom acquiring even the most basic of needs is a daily struggle. Without meaningful engagement and partnerships with communities, the risk is that wildlife areas are seen not only as sources of food, fuel, and building materials, but also revenue streams through poaching for ivory, rhino horn, and illicit wildlife trafficking in general.

Local communities can play a vital role in the fight against wildlife crime. However, engaging support for wildlife conservation areas is challenging and takes a long time. Trust and respect in developing projects that represent community voices, follow democratic processes, and support education and skills development are fundamental to healthy interdependence between wildlife areas and their neighbors.

But there is actually one more aspect to SEF—our grants program. We acknowledge that there is no silver bullet to conservation. So, in our spirit of collaboration, we will always support good people doing extraordinary work. Through our network, we can clearly see who is doing the real work as opposed to those who rely on having a great social media game. In a world full of greed and fraud, this is an invaluable piece of the puzzle for us.