WildlifeDirect (previously the Africa Conservation Fund) was founded in 2004 by the prominent Kenyan conservationist and paleoanthropologist, Dr. Richard Leakey, and former World Bank Representative to Kenya, Harold Wackman. WildlifeDirect was initially conceived as an online platform to provide a voice to African conservationists to protect wildlife as an important global heritage. By publishing their blogs, the aim was to raise awareness and funds for individuals and organizations on the frontlines in otherwise ignored conservation areas.
In the early years, WildlifeDirect highlighted the plight of gorillas in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, successfully campaigned to ban the pesticide Furudan that was being used to poison lions in Kenya, and supported the Mara Conservancy following the collapse in tourism revenues as a result of the post-election violence in 2007.
In 2012, in response to the poaching crisis affecting the elephant population, WildlifeDirect redirected its focus to elephant protection. The following year, WildlifeDirect launched its flagship campaign, Hands Off Our Elephants, under the patronage of the First Lady of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta. For the first time in history, a First Lady of Africa adopted a conservation campaign. Over the past few years, the campaign has been widely recognized for its singular successes in advocacy and generating unprecedented local support for wildlife conservation never before witnessed in Kenya.