Celebrities, friends gather in California to help protect Amboseli elephants


On February 17, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) hosted an event at the Hotel Palomar Westwood in Los Angeles to raise funds for our work protecting the elephants of Amboseli National Park in Kenya.

IFAW board members, dedicated California-based supporters, IFAW staff, and several IFAW celebrity ambassadors and friends gathered to learn more about what we are doing in Amboseli to stop poachers, decrease human elephant conflict and support local Maasai communities.

With this event, we launched a fundraising campaign to raise two million USD over three years for our Amboseli project.

A silent art auction, compliments of Hamilton-Selway Fine Arts, was featured during the cocktail hour. A compelling video message from Honorary Board member Jane Goodall, Ph.D, DBE kicked off the evening’s program followed by a few words from me. Then James Isiche, our East Africa Regional Director, spoke from personal experience, eloquently and urgently about the need to support the rangers in their work to protect Amboseli’s elephants.

The climax of the evening began when Charity Angels Auctioneer Mellisa Nielsen took the floor to begin the Fund A Need – a style of auction where guests can bid at various levels for items and actions we need to carry out. Mellisa was joined by Joyce Doria, a long-time supporter and a new board member, who announced a leadership challenge gift.

The packed room was electric. As I waited for the first paddle to go up, and was listening for the amount of the donation, I found that I was holding my breath. A few minutes later, I was trying to catch my breath.  

Supporters among our more than 100 guests that night not only matched Joyce’s gift, but exceeded it, pledging more than $370,000 on the floor. This historic, first-of-its-kind of event for IFAW netted more than a half a million dollars, setting us well on our way toward our goal.


In the video above, we get an overview of  the work being done by IFAW working with the Maasai community and partners to protect habitat and wildlife in Amboseli National Park in Kenya.

An important ally and guest at the event,  Daniel Leturesh, leader of the Olgulului/Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) a Maasai community near Amboseli, was recognized by Aaron Frank, representing our trusted partner, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. Guests were thrilled to meet Daniel, and he was honored to be at the event and accept the Disney Conservation Hero Award. 

The event concluded with a viewing of our new PROTECT elephants PSA, directed and presented by celebrity ambassador Joely Fisher. Celebrities attending the event included honorary board member Goran Visnjic, and celebrities Matt Sorum, Glenn Hughes, John Kay, Abri van Straten, Connie Stevens, Heather Morris and Katie Cleary.

This event reflected much hard work and was one of the best examples of the board, staff, donor, foundations and sponsor collaboration to create the most successful event that I have ever experienced at IFAW. I wish to especially thank our Host Committee: Suzanne Costas, Joyce Doria, John Kay and Jutta Maue Kay, Elizabeth Kitchen, Konny Murray, Judith Posnikoff, Stephen and Laura Scully, Ann Smith, Ben Stein and Alexandra Denman, and Henry Weinberg.

We are also thankful to the event sponsors Hamilton-Selway Fine Art, Hanky Panky, Hornburg Motors Los Angeles, David Rio San Francisco, and Ektimo Vineyards and the donors who could not attend but sent in contributions.

The elephants of Amboseli must survive and live peaceful and meaningful lives. The work that we do for them is crucial for animal welfare and conservation. The huge success of this event is a testament to that work.

Thank you all.


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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy