The Kenyan environmentalist and expedition leader Richard Leakey, to whom mankind owes important insights into how it was formed, is dead.
He died at the age of 77. He had “the sad news of the death of Dr. Richard Erskine Frere Leakey, ”said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement on Sunday evening.
Leakey was the second eldest son of famous paleoanthropologists, Louis and Mary Leakey. Although he was not a trained archaeologist himself, Richard Leakey led a number of expeditions in the 1970s during which groundbreaking discoveries were made of fossils of ancient human relatives. They helped to substantiate the theory of the origin of mankind in Africa.
Richard was the second of three children of the also famous archaeologists and anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey. He continued his work and discovered clues that helped prove that the evolution of humanity started in Africa. Already in the 1970s, he made revolutionary discoveries about the first hominid fossils.
Leakey’s most famous find came in 1984 with the almost complete skeleton of a Homo erectus. It became known as the “Turkana Boy”.
In 1989, Leakey was appointed head of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) by then-President Daniel Arap Moi. As head of the national parks of the East African country, he waged a bitter struggle against the widespread poaching of elephants in the hunt for precious ivory.
In 1993, Leakey crashed a small Cessna machine in the Rift Valley. He survived the accident but lost both legs.
Leakey was also active as a politician and led various civil society institutions. Despite his poor health, he took over the management of the KWS again for three years at the request of Kenyatta in 2015.
So far no more details have been released about the causes of his death.