John Waithaka

The IUCN Wilderness Specialist Group is pleased and honored to announce that John Waithaka is our new Co-Chair, joining Vance Martin (the founder and Co-Chair of the WSG), Sarah Casson (Manager of the WSG), and the global membership of the WSG.

John’s life experience, professional expertise, and personal integrity are superb contributions to the work of the Wilderness Specialist Group. He joins and helps guide our team as we continually strengthen the importance of wilderness (Category 1b) in addressing climate change and providing life-supporting ecological service at local, national, and global scale. Please see below for his bio and photograph. Contact Sarah Casson with any questions.


About John Waithaka

John Waithaka has deep connections with nature right from his upbringing. Born just outside the boundary of the Aberdare National Park and Forest Reserve in Kenya, he grew up as a shepherd boy in a very traditional setting. His community shared the land with wild animals and outside influence was minimal. He did not go to school until he was 10 years old as his father did not see the value of formal education. He later specialized in conservation biology and started working with researchers who were studying some key endangered species in the country. He soon became a crusader for community-based conservation as he could not see a future for wildlife without the support of the people who shared their land with the animals.

Over the years, John has worked in various capacities including as a lecturer at Kenyatta University, elephant programme coordinator for Kenya, deputy director at the Kenya Wildlife Service, manager of the European Union’s Biodiversity Conservation Programme and director of the African Conservation Center. He moved to Canada in 2003 and worked with Parks Canada as a conservation biologist until he returned to Kenya in January 2017.

John joined the IUCN in 1992 as a member of the IUCN SSC – African Elephant Specialist Group. Currently, he is serving as the IUCN WCPA Regional Vice Chair for East and Southern Africa and as a member of the IUCN World Heritage Panel and IUCN Green List of Protected Areas Management Committee. He is also a Co-Editor of PARK – the IUCN-WCPA International Journal of Protected Areas and Conservation.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Botany and Zoology (University of Nairobi), MSc in Biology of Conservation (University of Nairobi) and a Ph.D. in Zoology (Kenyatta University, Nairobi).

John’s passion is to contribute towards the achievement of the IUCN global vision of a “just world that values and conserves nature.”

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