Richard Leakey

From Academic Kids

Richard Leakey
Richard Leakey

Richard Erskine Frere Leakey (born December 19, 1944), son of Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, is a renowned British paleontologist and conservationist and archaeologist



Leakey started his career following in the footsteps of his famous parents with discoveries of early hominid fossils in East Africa. His most famous discovery was that of Turkana Boy in the Koobi Fora area near Lake Turkana. Turkana Boy was the nearly complete skeleton of a 9-year-old hominid who died 1.5 million years ago. Leakey and Roger Lewin describe the experience of this find and their interpretation of it, in their book Origins Reconsidered (1992).


In 1989 Richard Leakey was appointed the head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) by President Daniel Arap Moi in response to the international outcry over the poaching of elephants and the impact it was having on the wildlife of Kenya. With characteristically bold steps Leakey created special, well-armed anti-poaching units that were authorized to shoot poachers on sight. The poaching menance was dramatically reduced. Impressed by Leakey's transformation of the KWS, the World Bank approved grants worth $140 million.

Richard Leakey, President Arap Moi and the KWS made the international news headlines when a stock pile of 12 tons of ivory was burned in 1989.

Richard Leakey's confrontational approach to the issue of human-wildlife conflict in national parks did not win him friends. His view was that parks were self-contained ecosystems that had to be fenced in and the humans kept out. Leakey's bold and incorruptible nature also offended many local politicians.

In 1993 Richard Leakey lost both his legs when his propeller-driven plane crashed. Sabotage was suspected, but never proved. In a few months Richard Leakey was walking again on artificial limbs. Around this time the Kenyan government announced that a secret probe had found evidence of corruption and mismanagement in the KWS. An annoyed Leakey resigned publically in a press conference in January 1994. He was replaced by the less charismatic David Western as the head of the KWS.

Richard Leakey wrote about his experiences at the KWS in his book Wildlife Wars: My Battle to Save Kenya's Elephants (2001).


In May 1995 Richard Leakey joined a group of Kenyan intellectuals in launching a new political party - the Safina Party. "If KANU and Mr. Moi will do something about the deterioration of public life, corruption and mismanagement, I'd be happy to fight alongside them. If they won't, I want somebody else to do it," announced Richard Leakey. The Safina party was routinely harassed and even its application to become an official political party was not approved till 1997.

In 1999, Moi had to appoint Richard Leakey as Cabinet Secretary and overall head of the civil service at the insistence of international donor institutions as a pre-condition for the resumption of donor funds. Leakey's second stint in the civil service lasted till 2001 when he was forced to resign again.

The 27 November 2004 edition of the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reported that Dr. Leakey is proposing himself and others for jobs in KWS [1] (

External links

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