PODCAST It Started With a Bird and a $100 Bill – The Nikela Story

The Nikela Story began when our hearts were changed in early 2009 with a bird and a $100 bill. 

PODCAST It Started With a Bird and a $100 bill - The Nikela Story

“What’s your story?”

This has become one of my favorite questions. Why? Because it is always the beginning of a new adventure. This time instead of bringing you the story of one of the many interesting wildlife people we meet I bring you the Nikela Story.

(Watch our almost Daily Mini Reality TV on our YouTube channel)


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It Started With a Bird and a $100 Bill – The Nikela Story

ABOPS Owl tree

In early 2009 Russ and I visited the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary close to where my parents lived in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  This sanctuary cares for falcons, hawks, kites, eagles, owls, and vultures who are largely the victims of injuries, poisoning or illegal possession. A select few of those that cannot be returned to the wild become ambassador birds.

ABOPS Shannon falcon bird

It was on one of those typical sunny African afternoons that somehow during Shannon Hoffman’s flight show we were changed. Was it the owl that I felt more than saw fly silently over my head? Was it YBK, the kite, dancing in the breeze above us? Was it the lightning speed of the falcon swooping to grab the lure in mid air? Or was it the stories Shannon told about these birds that touched my heart? I’m not sure. I just know Russ felt it too, because on the way out he dropped his ‘in case of emergency’ $100 bill he’d carried in his wallet for years into the donation box.

ABOPS barn owl bird flying

On our long flight back to the U.S. I kept thinking of Shannon and the birds of prey who’s numbers were dwindling and how most of us didn’t have a clue it was happening.

ABOPS Shannon falcon bird flying

We wanted to help. Wanted to help people like Shannon who save birds of prey. People like Peter who protect rhinos and elephants from poachers, People like Marnus who save lions from being poisoned by farmers. People like Lisa who are keeping the endangered pangolin from going extinct. People like Silke who give vervet monkeys a second chance at living free.

But frankly, we didn’t know how. Like most of you, we didn’t have an extra twenty, ten or even five thousand dollars lying around to give away.

ABOPS Shannon Russ

Several months later, knowing my struggles, our son sent us the URL to a website that links people in need to people who care via the internet. The light went on.

Maybe we could create something like that! I took time off to do some research, Russ and I fussed and discussed, but we didn’t know much about running a nonprofit. Finally we agreed that he’d continue supporting us while I just started. You know, just step out into the dark sort of thing.

In April 2010 Nikela was born.

ABOPS Margrit Ben

I was on the road to find others like us who cared about Africa’s wildlife and were looking for a direct way to help. Sure there are the large organizations with tons of money doing big things. But what about the little people like Shannon, those who are on the ground doing good for wildlife… one animal or bird at a time? What about them?

We also learned that in the large organizations some of the money, people like you and I donate, go to pay salaries and admin expenses. Well, we didn’t like that. So we committed that 100% of all donations would go to save wildlife. Nikela would merely be the conduit.

I wish I could say we immediately figured out how to attract lots of people, received tons of donations and were a huge success. That would be lying!

What we did learn is that we were pretty good at sharing stories and information via the internet. “I had no idea!” “I never knew that!” type comments told us that this part was working. The internet is a fabulous tool, you can reach people anywhere on the planet, at least pretty much!

But something was still missing. That connection… connection between you and the conservationists. Russ and I needed to get more up close and personal for you to get to really know them and their work. To do this we had to be in Africa! How was that going to happen?

In early 2014 Russ said, “If we get and stay out of debt. Live very simply, we could retire and spend half the year in Africa!” “Sold!”

After taking almost a year living in our old Land Rover in Africa to get things sorted, I think we finally got it! Finally got how to include you the best.

This has taken quite a bit of change on our part. You see, Russ and I are pretty private people. We like being out in the bush alone, spend time in the desert where there are no people, and show up in the reserves during off season. So to let you into our personal space like this (via videos on YouTube)… is well, different.

However, it (video) is the best way to have you meet the most dedicated people ever, see amazing wild animals, birds and other critters, and experience crazy adventures travelling Africa in an old Land Rover with a roof top tent.

So, join the fun, ride alongsubscribe to our YouTube channel (almost daily videos) and donate to help when you’re ready.

 100% of your gift goes to save wildlife, we totally pay our own way.

Helping is easy. Click the giraffe below to make a donation!

1-Donate BUTTON giraffe new website rev 150x

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