Richard Leakey : biography
Richard Erskine Frere Leakey (born 19 December 1944 in Nairobi) is a politician, paleoanthropologist and conservationist. He is second of the three sons of the archaeologists Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, and is the younger brother of Colin Leakey.
In 1989 Richard Leakey was appointed the head of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department (WMCD) 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. The department was replaced by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in 1990, and Leakey became its first chairman. With characteristically bold steps Leakey created special, well-armed anti-poaching units that were authorised to shoot poachers on sight. The poaching menace 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 WMCD made the international news headlines when a stock pile of 12 tons of ivory was burned in 1989 in Nairobi National Park.
Richard Leakey's confrontational approach to the issue of human–wildlife conflict in national parks did not win him only 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, a small propeller-driven plane piloted by Richard Leakey crashed, crushing his lower legs, both of which were later amputated. 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 publicly in a press conference in January 1994. He was replaced by David Western as the head of the KWS.
Richard Leakey wrote about his experiences at the KWS in his book Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa's Natural Treasures (2001)
Leakey stated in his autobiography that he is an atheist.Leakey, Leakey (1983). One Life: An Autobiography (p. 38)
In May 1995 Richard Leakey joined some Kenyan intellectuals in launching a new political party – the Safina Party, which in Swahili means "Noah's Ark". "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 until 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 until 2001 when he was forced to resign again.
Leakey joined the Department of Anthropology faculty at Stony Brook University, New York in 2002.Stony Brook University, Press release, 27 March 2007: He is currently a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook, where he is Chair of the Turkana Basin Institute.
In 2004, Richard Leakey founded and chaired WildlifeDirect, a Kenya-based charitable organisation. The charity was established to provide support to conservationists in Africa directly on the ground via the use of blogs. This enables individuals anywhere to play a direct and interactive role in the survival of some of the world's most precious species. The organisation played a significant role in the saving of Congo's mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park in January 2007 after a rebel uprising threatened to eliminate the highly vulnerable population.
In April 2007 he was appointed interim chairman of Transparency International Kenya branch.The Standard, 4 April 2007: The same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
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