Richard Leakey was a Kenyan palaeoanthropologist, conservationist and public figure. His fossil hunting helped to illustrate the story of human evolution in Africa, particularly with the discovery of a near-complete 1.6 million-year-old skeleton of a Homo erectus youth. In public office, amongst other achievements, Richard transformed elephant and rhino conservation in Kenya.
Richard left school at 16, but was an industrious young man. The son of famous fossil hunters, Richard identified a spot near the shores of Lake Turkana as being worthy of exploration. From the late 1960s he led expeditions there, finding stone-age tools, skulls and the remains of early humans, including ‘Turkana Boy’.
As well leading the National Museum of Kenya, Richard was politically influential for many years. His tough anticorruption and conservation stance as head of the Kenya Wildlife Service took a hard line against poaching, doing much to save elephant and rhino populations.