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Lifetime Achievement Award 2012
2012 TIES Lifetime Achievement Award - Dr. David Western
David Western is chairman of the African Conservation Center in Nairobi, Kenya. He began research into savannas ecosystems at Amboseli National Park in 1967, looking at the interactions of humans and wildlife. His work, unbroken since then, has served as a barometer of changes in the savannas and a test of conservation solutions based on the continued coexistence of people and wildlife.
Western directed Wildlife Conservation Society programs internationally, established Kenya's Wildlife Planning Unit, and chaired the African Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group. He was founding president of The International Ecotourism Society, chairman of the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service and founder of the African Conservation Centre in Nairobi. He is an adjunct professor in biology at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Minnesota.
Westerns publications include Conservation for the Twenty-first Century (Oxford University Press, 1989), Natural Connections: Perspectives in Community-based Conservation (Island Press, 1994) and In the Dust of Kilimanjaro (Shearwater, 2001). He is currently conducting a study on climate change in the Kenya-Tanzania borderlands in collaboration with University of California San Diego, University of York, Missouri Botanical Gardens and African Conservation Center.
The Founding of TIES
(Excerpt from "Ecotourism Then & Now" by Megan Epler Wood)
In 1989, I was working as an independent filmmaker with my own company, Ecoventures, specializing in environmental documentaries. I convinced the National Audubon Society to produce an hour-long documentary on ecotourism for television. The funding covered production in Kenya, Belize and Montana. With a serious budget, I researched every aspect of how tourism was providing income to parks and quickly discovered the most articulate advocate for using tourism to finance parks was Dr. David Western. Known as Jonah by all his friends and colleagues, Western was the head of the Wildlife Conservation Center program of the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) in East Africa.
The son of a game warden, he was field seasoned from birth, had a wickedly smart ability to sum up key points, and had long been a strong advocate community-based conservation. This led him to be one of the earliest advocates for ecotourism. We met twice, once for an audio tape interview at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, and once in Amboseli National Park with a whole film crew. After the shoot, I asked if I could make a private visit to discuss an idea with him, and he invited me to his home.
The idea I presented was the founding of The Ecotourism Society (later to become The International Ecotourism Society). Sitting in front of an African water hole, having tea at Western’s house overlooking Nairobi National Park, I made my pitch. I would be the point person, and he would be my chairman. He agreed and TIES was born.
Tribute to Dr. David Western by Megan Epler Wood
Dr. David Western, known as Jonah, grew up in Tanzania and traveled with the Masai as a child, giving him a life long understanding of the link between local traditional practices and the conservation of ecosystems.
He has never lost his vision that the conservation of African parks and wildlife needs to lie in local hands and has advocated parks beyond parks and community based conservation from the earliest days of his career.
As the founder of the Amboseli Conservation Program in 1967, he brought a ground breaking ecosystem management approach to the table that made the Masai an equal partner. Though this plan was not fully followed, he has continued to keep his eye fixed on creating community conservation strategies.
In the 1970s, Western became the leader of a policy initiative for Amboseli where he made a strong economic case for tourism as a vital generator of revenue for the park, and was one of the first advocates of community based tourism as a key link to park conservation strategies.
In 1990, a young nature filmmaker, Megan Epler Wood, discovered that Dr. Western was probably the first and foremost thinker in the world linking conservation and sustainable development strategies to tourism. Her documentary about the newly named ecotourism phenomenon, produced for the National Audubon Society's television series in the US, allowed her to approach Western and make him a primary spokesperson on camera for the wise and ecological management of tourism in parks. While filming together in Kenya, he agreed to become the first President of The International Ecotourism Society, a brain child Epler Wood proposed to him during production.
Western convened the first TIES board meeting in 1991 with experts from around the world, who together gave ecotourism the most widely used definition that crisply linked tourism to conservation and local well-being. And in 1998, when he was Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, he held an international conference in Kenya together with TIES to study how tourism management in collaboration with local communities in Kenya leads to sustainable development results, using field visits throughout the country to allow international experts to observe and take note.
Jonah Western's support for The International Ecotourism Society at its earliest hour made it the first organization in the world to make a consistent case for ecotourism as a legitimate and valid tool for sustainable development at a time when many experts were doubtful. His steady hand allowed a whole field of study, research and practise to emerge which continues to grow and expand today.