HOW WE STARTED
"I've always loved animals, whether fluffy, scaly or feathered, so there was no question our bracelets would raise money for animals and conservation."
Our founder is National Geographic filmmaker and photographer, Shannon Wild who started Wild In Africa® - Bracelets for Wildlife after a near death experience while on assignment in Kenya.
In 2013 I moved to Africa to pursue my dream of making wildlife documentaries after working for 10 years as a photographer in my home country of Australia.
I grew up dreaming of Africa, watching countless documentaries and dreaming of wild places and animals. When I first arrived in South Africa, camera gear in hand, after selling everything I owned, all I had was a dream and a little savings.
I left a solid career, financial stability and the safety of home to move to a country I'd never been to before. While I didn't have a network or even a body of work that represented Africa or its animals yet, I was full of excitement and the attitude that I would do what it takes to make my dream come true. So, after working for a decade as a paid photographer, I went back to working for free as I tried to gain experience and a network of contacts in Africa and around the world.
I worked in many remote regions of the continent, sometimes with access to only basic food and, after 3 years, worked myself to exhaustion, as I tried to make a name for myself in this new environment.
I continued to push my body beyond its limits to pursue my dreams (and just as I was really establishing myself), my poor body finally failed me and I was found unconscious on a dirt path in the Masai Mara, in an area frequented by lions. No-one knows how long I was laying there, but it was long enough for the gravel to be firmly embedded in my face. I was medivac’d to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi where I was hospitalised.
The next 3 months I was bedridden while my frail body tried to heal. I was skeletal and close enough to death that I didn’t have the energy to even care anymore. My angel of a mother jumped on a plane from Australia and stayed by my side for the next month while I slept all day. Eventually, after 3 months I was out of bed most days and my mental clarity had returned. I was frustrated that my body could not yet keep up with my motivation.
I couldn’t even hold a camera and certainly didn’t have enough stamina to be out in the field (that would take another 3 months along with a very slow reintroduction). This frustration pushed me to find a creative outlet other than filming and photography until I was properly back on my feet. So, I dismantled some of my beaded bracelets that I’d collected over the years on my travels and redesigned them.
I was hooked.
Soon, I was sourcing beads from all over the world and creating different styles and selling them on Etsy. I was surprised at the reception they received and soon I was making regular sales.
My past as a graphic designer (9 years and a whole other life and story) meant I had an understanding and appreciation for marketing. Before I knew it Wild In Africa ® - Bracelets for Wildlife was born, registered and open for business!
Animals, my main passion, have given my life so much happiness and meaning. It’s the least I could do and that’s why I wanted my charity bracelets to give an amount that truly signified my commitment - 50% of the purchase price. If people are going to buy bracelets because they want to support conservation then I was going to be very clear about exactly how much of what they’re spending is being given. It’s that simple.
That was May 2017, and I can hardly believe how we’ve grown. More importantly, I’m so incredibly excited about the future and how we can give back to wildlife conservation in a real and meaningful way, together.