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Wildlife-based tourism is widely promoted as a conservation tool, yet controversy surrounds its net contributions. Procedural problems are under-appreciated and originate from an under-attention to people: their interactions, values at play, and matters of special, shared, and common interests. We offer a case in Namibia of black rhinoceros conservation tourism that attended simultaneously and systematically to the inter-related ecological and social processes involved. We demonstrate how an understanding of social context and the decision making process developed, how outcomes were evaluated and synthesized lessons into prototypic elements as a pneumonic that we term the 'ACE approach': (1) establish an Arena for inclusive, open debate; (2) identify and use Conservation-oriented messaging; (3) adopt participatory Evidence-based management for action, feedback, and learning.