Our History

Our History

40+ Years of Innovation

ACC began in the 1970s as a Wildlife Conservation Society field research and training center focused on wildlife conservation. Eventually, our constant interaction with people living within and around designated wildlife areas brought us to understand the critical role of these communities in the conservation of wildlife and other natural resources. As a result, we initiated projects that linked community development to conservation. In 1995, ACC was registered as an independent nonprofit organization under its own board of trustees. Since then, it has grown from a network of dedicated scientists and community members to an African conservation hub with international recognition, funding and support.


2019 — ACC launches the Development Corridor Project (DCP) to look into the impact of infrastructure in biodiversity

2018— Kenya’s first Wildlife Strategy was launched; ACC played a coordinating role during the strategy formulation process

2017 — ACC hosted the inaugural conservation safari that was organized by ACC-US

2016 — The construction of Noonkotiak Resource Centre in Amboseli was completed

2015 — Kenya’s first biodiversity atlas was launched; The process was coordinated by ACC

2014-2015 — Establishment of the Noonkotiak Community Resource Centre in Amboseli

2010-2012 — Establishment of the Twala-Tenebo Community Resource Centre in Laikipia

2008-2012 — ACC supported the establishment of the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust (AET) as the grassroots agency to implement the Amboseli ecosystem management plan

2013-2015 — ACC supported the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process and gazettment of the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan

2010 – 2014 — Establishment of new community conservation areas, more land set aside for conservation that has led to the creation of more employment opportunities

2013 – 2015 — Establishment and support to seven (7) Water Resource user groups through capacity building, horizontal learning, trainings and support to business enterprises

2014-2015 — ACC is supporting the establishment of a common platform form Resource user groups in Ewaso Ngiro south water basin

2009-2014 — ACC Conservation Development program worked with the Kajiado county to support a cattleman breed improvement program and generate income to local communities. Subsequently, a women’s milk cooperative was formed

2011-2015 — Support and strengthen cultural tourism in Magadi, Amboseli, Laikipia and Mara landscapes- eg Establishment of cultural homestays and research tourism focusing on lion research, walking with baboons, walking with cattle and plant walks

2012 – 2014 — ACC was commissioned by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources to bring together a consortium of conservation agencies – drawn from government agencies, academic institutions and non-governmental institutions to create a Biodiversity Atlas for Kenya, as the country’s first step in accounting for Kenya’s Natural Capital

2012-2014 — African Conservation Centre (ACC) and the South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO), with the support of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation established the Borderlands Conservation Initiative which focuses on Elephant and Lion conservation in the borderlands area and aims to establish viable, interconnected elephant and lion populations by strengthening community conservation capacity and generating jobs and income

2013 — Helps to establish the nonprofit organization African Conservation Centre US (ACC US) in the United States. ACC US’s mission is to support the African Conservation Centre and community-based initiatives to conserve wildlife in Africa

2013 — Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Wildlife Conservation Award is presented to John Kamanga, Coordinator of SORALO and Chairman of Olkiramatian Group Ranch; The award is given to John in order to honor his conservation leadership; Established in 1993, it has been presented to leading scientists and conservationists, including Jane Goodall, George Schaller, E.O. Wilson, and David Western

2013 — Developed and funded Maasai Cultural Heritage Festival with SORALO

2012 — Developed the Maasai Cultural Heritage Program with SORALO

2012 — ACC along with the South Rift Association of Landowners created Kenya Rangeland Coalition

2012 — TIES Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Dr. David Western during the 2012 Ecotourism Conference held in Monterey California USA. This award recognizes his distinguished achievements in promoting ecotourism and conscientious travel; supporting the goals of sustainable community development and biodiversity conservation; and inspiring positive changes in the tourism industry

2010 — ACC brought a consortium of institutions namely Ecotourism Kenya, African Wildlife Foundation to help to create the Federation of Community based Tourism Organisations – FECTO as an umbrella body to support the various Community Based Tourism enterprises scattered across the country

2010 — ACC Initiated and chaired the hosting of the International Conference on Biodiversity, Land Use and Climate Change, Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was adopted as Kenya’s contribution to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity

July 2012 — Lucy Waruingi hired as Executive Director of ACC


2007-2009 — Establishment of the Lale’enok Community Resource Centre in Magadi

2008-2009 — ACC conducted a two-year study: Modeling the Dynamics of African Savanna Ecosystems. Funded by the J.R.S. Biodiversity Foundation.

2008 — ACC initiated and raised funds for the development of the South Rift Resource Centre, now called Lale’enok near Magadi in Kenya.

2008 — Climate Change Study – Conserving Biodiversity along the Kenya-Tanzania Borderlands in the Face of Climate Change. This three year study, started in 2008, is coordinated by ACC and involves the University of York, Missouri Botanic Gardens and University of California San Diego in projections of the impact of climate on the rich biodiversity lands along the Kenya-Tanzania border. Grants raised from the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation and US AID.

2004 — Dr. Western assumed the directorship of ACC for an interim period of transition to a more diversified regional organization.

2005 — Initiated and coordinated the Future of the Open Rangelands. This initiative brings together ranchers, scientists and conservationists on from the arid southwest of the US and East Africa to explore ways to keep the rangelands viable for ranchers and wildlife in the face of fragmentation and subdivision. It has involved three exchanges, in 2002, 2004 and 2005, culminating in an East African workshop on the Future of the Open Range, held in Nairobi, June 2005. Funds raised from United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation, Malpai Borderlands Group, Sand County Foundation and Christensen Fund.

2004-2005 — Initiated workshop and task force (2004) leading to establishment of SORALO, the South Rift Land Owners Association, (2005). SORALO is an association of 20 ranches spanning the southern rift valley in Kenya, dedicated to conserving the open nature and health of the land for pastoral communities, wildlife and tourism.

2004 — Initiated the ecosystem planning workshop in Amboseli that led to the development of a joint task force of landowners, government agencies, NGOs and tour industry representatives and resulted in Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan, 2008 and the establishment of the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust.

2003 — John Waithaka, another ACC founder member and subsequent director of ACC was recruited as chief scientist by Parks Canada.

2003 — Funded by the Ford Foundation, ACC organizes an East African 2003 – East African Ecotourism Conference, organized by ACC and funded by the Ford Foundation, brings together 200 delegates from three East African countries to discuss community-based conservation and responsible business opportunities. From this conference the book Ecotourism: from an Idea to an Industry is published through ACC by IIED in August 2003. Ecotourism Conference — brings together 200 delegates from three East African countries to discuss community-based conservation and responsible business opportunities. From this conference the book ‘Ecotourism: from an Idea to an Industry’ is published through ACC by IIED in August 2003.

2001 — Dr. Helen Gichohi was succeeded as the director of ACC by Neel Inamdar when she took up a new appointment as Director of African Operations for the African Wildlife Foundation in 2001.


1998 — David Western was appointed Director of Kenya Wildlife Service.

1999 — ACC supports the establishment of the Maasai Mara Management Authority (MMMA) and holds the secretariat docket and slaps a moratorium on further development of tourism facilities

1999-2000 — ACC developed the Koiyaki-Lemek Olchorro Oirua landuse plan for key group ranches in the Maasai Mara

1995-1996 — ACC supported the establishment of the Amboseli/Tsavo Group Ranch Conservation Association (ATGRCA)

1997 — Initiated and hosted Ecotourism at a Crossroads, an international conference held in Nairobi. The workshop led directly to the formation of the Kenya Tourist Federation.

1997 — Introduced a Minimum Conservation Area system to prioritise Kenya’s efforts in biodiversity conservation. The MCA, established on the basis of technical evaluations and broad national participation, laid out a conservation network of protected and non-protected areas critical to the long- term sustainability of Kenya’s biodiversity.

1995 — ACC Established as Independent Organization — When Dr. Western was succeeded by Dr. John Robinson as director of WCS in 1990, it was evident that the Nairobi office had become a national organization and had grown steadily beyond its role as a regional centre for WCS. It was at this stage that Dr. Western, together with his associates Chris Gakahu, Helen Gichohi, John Waithaka and Andrew Muchiru, proposed formally establishing the WCS office as the African Conservation Centre. It was visualized that ACC would become a national and perhaps regional partner to WCS and in due course, other international nongovernmental organizations (NGO). During the next two years the proposal was formally developed and approved by WCS. An application to register ACC as a Kenyan non-government organization was submitted to the Office of the President in 1993 and the organization formally took on the name, the African Conservation Centre. Dr. Helen Gichohi, an ACC founder, took over as director. ACC was formally registered in 1995 when an autonomous board of trustees was established under the chairmanship of Dr. Western. On officially becoming ACC in 1995, the organization added new projects and donors and formally incorporated a multi-disciplinary approach to conservation in its organizational structure. Under Dr. Gichohi, ACC’s funding expanded rapidly to include new donors such as the European Union, Ford Foundation, USAID and partnerships with other NGOs including the African Wildlife Foundation.

1993 — Established African Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization in the United States focused on supporting community-based conservation programs in East Africa and beyond.

1991 — Establishment of Community Wildlife Associations — By the early 1990s, the WCS regional office was deeply involved in fostering community wildlife associations and building local capacity. The wildlife associations included the Kitengela Landowners Wildlife Association, the Amboseli and Tsavo Group Ranch Conservation Association and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Association.

1990 — Ecotourism — In 1990, Dr. Western became the founding president of The International Ecotourism Society. In this capacity, he launched an ecotourism study of the Maasai Mara under Dr. Chris Gakahu and John Waithaka, leading to the formation of the Ecotourism Society of Kenya in 1996, currently known as Ecotourism Kenya. Ecotourism Kenya plays a key role in ensuring that Kenya’s tourism is sustainable, both in terms of concern for the environment and for the welfare of local communities.

1990 — ACC’s ecotourism explorations in Amboseli and Mara lead to the establishment of Ecotourism Society of Kenya (ESOK), currently known as Ecotourism Kenya.


1986 — ACC took another step forward when Dr. Western became the Director of Wildlife Conservation International (WCI, and now Wildlife Conservation Society, International), the field arm of the New York Zoological Society. In line with WCS’s new global conservation strategy based on geographic regions, the Nairobi office became the locus of East African regional activities. The centre expanded considerably at this stage to become the strategic planning centre coordinating research and conservation activities on large mammals and important ecosystems. The work included research and conservation efforts in Nakuru, Nairobi, Maasai Mara and Amboseli, as well as WCS activities in Ethiopia and South Sudan and IUCN’s Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group activities across Africa. The centre drew in many new students and associates to conduct research and conservation programs. Researchers and conservationists included Helen Gichohi, Lucy Vigne, John Githaiga, John Waithaka, Andrew Muchiru, a number of other students from across Africa and a growing number of para-ecologists and field assistance.

1981 — Dr. Western was nominated as Chair of the IUCN/SSC African Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group. The office established in Nairobi at Embassy House for this activity, gradually assumed shape as an incipient African Conservation Centre as the number of students increased and activities expanded. Student and researchers associated with the conservation programs included Chris Gakahu, Moses Kumpumula, James Ssemakula, Nick Georgiadis, Fred Waweru, Tom Pilgram and David Maitumo among others. The office soon took on an international role in elephant and rhino conservation at the peak of the poaching crisis, providing the technical data base as well as coordinating recovery strategies and plans Africa-wide. The studies and conservation activities adopted a broad inter-disciplinary approach to species conservation, culminating in the multi-organizational Ivory Trade Review Group that incorporated over 35 studies on all aspects of the global ivory trade.



ACC pioneers ecotourism in East Africa through its studies in Amboseli. With the implementation of the Amboseli development plan in the late 1970s, Dr. Western’s research expanded to other areas, including the Maasai Mara, and built up a cadre of Kenyan graduates to conduct similar work under WCS.


1967 — Dr. Western started his research into the wildlife and human ecology of the Amboseli ecosystem, looking at the implications for conservation and the establishment of a national park rooted with direct benefits to the local Maasai community. The work soon took on a multi-disciplinary character and drew on a cadre of graduate students and field assistants.