For someone who has been chewed on by lions, has faced down Somali bandits, and lived days from the nearest civilization, it's perhaps not surprising that conservationist Tony Fitzjohn would feel uncomfortable with raising money at big splashy galas.
"He's not glitzy. He's not comfortable with that," said Pam Solomon of Solomon and Goldsmith, a fundraising consulting firm that is helping Fitzjohn raise money for the Tony Fitzjohn/George Adamson African Wildlife Preservation Trust. The organization is working to rebuild a wildlife refuge in Kenya.
Solomon, along with her partner Jeanne Goldsmith, held a private introductory party at the Pacific Palisades home of Sue Morse, on Sunday, Dec. 4.
"I wanted to hear more about the work they were doing," Morse said. "I thought it was great."
Fitzjohn got his start working for 18 years with George Adamson. Adamson was best known as the husband of author Joy Adamson who wrote the book Born Free. The book told the story of a lion cub named Elsa that the couple reared and then taught how to survive in the wild. There is also a film about the Adamsons and Elsa by the same name.
After George Adamson was killed in 1989, Fitzjohn went on to build Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania. Today, he travels all over the world raising funds in a very small, one-on-one kind of way.
"It's all friends and friends of friends," he said. "Basically, I raise money privately."
The Dec. 4 event was a small, private affair. Fitzjohn had the opportunity to chat with the 45 guests, and then gave a short presentation about his work in Africa.
"I'm regarded as a bit of a maverick and I look for like-minded people," he said.
His current project is restoring Kora National Park in Kenya, which he helped George Adamson build. It has since fallen prey to Somali cattle barons, and other forms of neglect, according to Fitzjohn. In addition, he said that with Chinese nationals operating in Africa, rhinoceroses and other endangered species are being poached relentlessly.
"It's never been as crucial as it is now," Fitzjohn said.
Jeff Stein, who has been working with Fitzjohn since 1982 and now serves as treasurer on the board of the trust, said that this is not a typical charity.
"We are a handful of dedicated people," Stein said. "We don't have fancy galas. We deal with corporate donors."
Guest Errol Spiro said that he enjoyed Fitzjohn's presentation, in which he talked about his work with Adamson and building Mkomazi National Park.
"It was very inspiring," Errol said.
Solomon said the event, which she described as a kick-off to a larger campaign, raised $100,000. Still, Fitzjohn will need approximately $500,000 to get the Kora National Park project started. He said he will then need to raise more money over the next five to 10 years to get the park rebuilt and restored.
- For more information about rebuilding Kora National Park, the trust and more about Fitzjohn's work, click here.