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Profile: Richard Leakey
Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

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Richard Leakey won fame as a paleoanthropologist while still in his early twenties, with sensational discoveries of the fossil remains of our most ancient ancestors, but his subsequent career as an author, conservationist, government official and political activist of unyielding courage has been even more extraordinary.

For nearly 30 years, he directed the National Museum of Kenya, creating a world-class center for the study of human origins. As Director of Kenya's National Wildlife Service, he led a successful campaign against poaching of the endangered African elephant. After surviving a plane crash that cost him both his legs, he founded an opposition party to combat the corruption of the country's one-party government. Subjected to constant harassment, death threats and even beatings by the regime's supporters, he won election to parliament, where he forced reform of Kenya's constitution.

As a government official, he continued his campaign against corruption in the civil service and secured a resumption of international aid. He remains a passionate and effective advocate for the environment, for the rights of the disabled, and for the cause of democracy in his beloved Kenya. In his 70th year he returned to government service as Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

This page last revised on Dec 07, 2015 10:00 EST