Wildlife Center Gets Unexpected Help

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Nikita Kahn and Larry Ellison pose during their July 20 fundraiser at Nikita restaurant, during which $600,000 was raised for the California Wildlife Center.

It was enough to make the sea lions roar with glee and baby coyotes howl with delight. 

Far exceeding expectations, the California Wildlife Center was given an unexpected $600,000 donation by Oracle founder Larry Ellison and his animal-loving girlfriend, Nikita Kahn.

The reclusive billionaire, who owns numerous properties in Malibu but rarely speaks to the press, and Kahn, an environmentalist and philanthropist, put together an intimate fundraiser at Nikita restaurant July 20. 

The CWC said the money could not have come at a better time. The organization runs a wildlife rescue center and rehabilitation and release program in the Santa Monica Mountains. The money raised will go a long way to help the center establish a fund to relocate to a bigger property with a sewer, which can accommodate marine mammals. 

Needless to say, the donation came as a very pleasant surprise. 

“We’ve had events like baby showers that raised $1,000,” said CWC President Victoria Harris, “but nothing like this.” 

It all started weeks ago when one of Ellison’s friends and neighbors, Audrey Cavenecia, came across a seal on the beach. 

“We didn’t know what to do,” she recalled. “We Googled it and the CWC was there 20 minutes later. I was so impressed I wrote them a big check.” 

Later on, Cavenecia ran into Ellison at his restaurant. 

“I told him…‘I saved a seal today,’” she said. “Larry said, ‘Let’s do a fundraiser.’ That’s how Larry is. He really wanted to get involved.” 

Kahn had a similar experience. 

“Recently, we had a lot of very young seals come up on the beach in Malibu because they were too small and weak to feed themselves.” 

In a statement to The Malibu Times, Kahn said, “The California Wildlife Center came to the beach, picked them up, fed them and cared for them until they were big enough and strong enough to be released back into the wild. I didn’t even know an organization like that existed.” 

Before long, the trio started learning about the organization and its value to the community. Soon, Cavenecia and Kahn were touring the facility, which they found busting at the seams. 

“People don’t realize we rely solely on donations,” Harris was quick to add. “We are running out of room.” 

The CWC opened in the late 1990s with the intention of serving 200 animals per year. Between seals, deer, hawks, bobcats, foxes, opossums and baby birds, the center now serves close to 5,000 creatures big and small. 

Ellison and Kahn’s VIP event, “Appreciating the Wild,” featured a call-to-action by Kahn and a screening of four films by Cavenecia, who stepped in as the event producer. Kahn also announced a $100,000 donation courtesy of Marc and Lynne Benioff, who were unable to attend. 

Ellison and Kahn were on hand to greet fellow neighbors Cheryl and Haim Saban. 

Ellison’s daughter, film producer Megan Ellison, mingled and posed for photos with Hollywood hunk Bradley Cooper. Others in the crowd included Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, famed surfer Laird Hamilton and wife Gabrielle Reece, Netsuite founder Evan Goldberg, and producers Donald Kushner, Angela Robinson and Alexandra Kondracke. 

The VIP evening also featured performances by local music man David Foster, who brought along Charles Perry and Fairground Saints. 

Harris in the meantime had words of praise for the people who put it all together. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “Nikita is an environmentalist and we welcome her. I am happy. It’s a good start.”