CM – Richard Leakey, fossil hunter and defender of elephants, dies at the age of 77


Click here to log in with


Forgot Password?

Learn more

January 3, 2022

World-renowned Kenyan conservationist and fossil hunter Richard Leakey, whose groundbreaking discoveries helped prove that humanity evolved in Africa, died on Sunday at the age of 77, the country’s president said.

googletag.cmd.push (function () {googletag.display (‘div-gpt-ad-1449240174198-2’);});

The legendary paleoanthropologist remained full of energy until his 1970s despite suffering from skin cancer, kidney and liver diseases.

« I received the sad news of the death of Dr. Richard Erskine Frere Leakey this afternoon … with deep sadness, » said President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement late Sunday.

Born December 1944, he was the middle son of Louis and Mary Leakey, perhaps the most famous discoverers of the ancestral hominids in the world, destined for paleoanthropology – the study of human fossils.

Initially, Leakey tried his hand at safari guides, but the Things changed when, at the age of 23, he received a National Geographic Society research grant to dig on the shores of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, despite having no formal archaeological training.

In the 1970s he led expeditions that advanced the scientific understanding of human evolution with the discovery of the skulls of Homo habilis (1.9 million years old) in 1972 and Homo erectus (1.6 million years old) recalibrated in 1975.

A TIME magazine cover followed, on which Leakey posed with a Homo habilis mock-up under the heading « How Man Became Man ». His fame continued to grow in 1981 when he hosted The Making of Mankind, a seven-part BBC television series.

The most famous fossil find was yet to come: the discovery of an extraordinary, almost complete Homo erectus skeleton at one of his excavations in 1984, nicknamed the Turkana Boy.

As the slaughter of African elephants in the late In the 1980s, driven by the insatiable demand for ivory, Leakey became one of the world’s leading voices against the then legal global ivory trade.

In 1989, President Daniel Arap appointed Moi Leakey to head the National Wildlife Agency, the soon to be called Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

That year he pioneered a spectacular publicity stunt by burning an ivory pyre and setting fire to 12 tons of tusks to make it clear they weren’t Worth if they were removed once elephants.

He kept his nerve even without apology when he fired a gun ehl carried out against armed poachers.

In 1993 his little Cessna crashed in the Rift Valley, where he made a name for himself. He survived but lost both legs.

« I was threatened regularly at the time and I lived with armed guards. But I decided not to become a playwright and said, ‘They tried to kill me.’ I’ve decided to get on with life, « he told the Financial Times.

Leakey was pushed out of KWS a year later and began a third career as a prominent opposition politician. He joined the chorus of voices against Moi’s corrupt regime.

However, his political career was less successful, and in 1998 he was appointed head of the Kenyan civil service by Moi, taking responsibility for combating official corruption. </ When another elephant poaching crisis hit Africa in 2015, President Kenyatta asked Leakey to take the helm of KWS again, this time as Chairman of the Board, a position he would hold for three years.

Vice President William Ruto said Leakey I « fought courageously for a better country » and inspired Kenyans with his zeal for public service.

Leakey spoke softly and apparently devoid of personal vanity, Leakey stubbornly refused to give in to health problems.

« Richard was a very good friend and a truly loyal Kenyan. May he rest in peace, ”wrote Paula Kahumbu, director of Wildlife Direct, a conservation group founded by Leakey, on Twitter.

© 2022 AFP

Use this form if you have identified a typographical error, inaccuracy, or if you would like to submit a change request to the contents of this page.
For general inquiries, please use our contact form.
For general feedback, use the public comments section below (please follow the guidelines).

Your feedback is important to us. Due to the high volume of messages, however, we cannot guarantee individual responses.

Your email address will only be used to let the recipient know who sent the email. Neither your address nor that of the recipient will be used for any other purpose.
The information you entered will appear in your email message and will not be stored in any form by

Receive weekly and / or daily updates in your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time and we will never pass your data on to third parties.

This website uses cookies to make navigation easier, to analyze your use of our services, to collect data to personalize advertisements and to provide third-party content.
By using our website, you confirm that you have read and understood our privacy policy
and terms of use.


Richard Leakey,Kenya,Uhuru Kenyatta,Conservationist,Richard Leakey, Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, Conservationist,,Richard Leakey,Paleontology,Fossils,Endangered and Extinct Species,Deaths (Obituaries),Archaeology and Anthropology,Skull (Body Part),State University of New York at Stony Brook,Kenyatta, Uhuru Muigai,Turkana Basin Institute,Africa,Kenya,Lake Turkana (Kenya),Nairobi (Kenya),Leakey, Meave G,,,

Donnez votre avis et abonnez-vous pour plus d’infos



[supsystic-newsletter-form id=4]

Vidéo du jour: