Kenyan paleontologist and politician Richard Leakey, June 27, 2018 during an interview with AFP in Nairobi Yasuyoshi CHIBA
World-renowned Kenyan paleontologist and politician Richard Leakey died Sunday at the age of 77, the Kenyan presidency announced.
“This afternoon I learned with deep sadness the news of the passing of Dr Richard Erskine Frere Leakey, the former Kenya Public Service chief,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement Sunday evening.
Richard Leakey, the second of three sons of Louis and Mary Leakey, both paleontologists and archaeologists, rose to prominence by unearthing clues that helped prove the evolution of humanity in Africa.
He had no formal training in archeology, but he had led expeditions in the 1970s which led to revolutionary discoveries on the first hominid fossils.
His most famous discovery dates from 1984, during an exploration in Lake Tukana, Kenya, where he unearthed an almost complete skeleton of Homo erectus, called “the boy of Tukana”.
In 1989, he was asked by the then president, Daniel arap Moi, to head the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). There he led a vigorous campaign against the poaching of elephant ivory.
In 1993, his small plane Cessna crashed in Kenya’s Rift Valley. He had lost both legs in the accident.
Richard Leakey also dabbled in politics, headed several civil society institutions and briefly headed the country’s Civil Service.
In 2015, despite poor health, he took over the leadership of KWS for a three-year term, at the request of President Kenyatta.