A global thinker, influential environmentalist and the world’s best-known paleoanthropologist, Richard Leakey has been making international headlines for more than 30 years.
As former Director of the National Museum of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service, Leakey has used his leadership skills and influence to raise money for wildlife preservation. Now a Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University , Leakey, one of the foremost authorities on wildlife and nature conservation, continues to educate others about the dangers of environmental degradation.
Leakey received the 2003 Earthwatch Institute Conservation Award for his efforts on behalf of sustainable development. He also was awarded the Humane Society’s Joseph Wood Krutch Medal for his contributions to improve the environment.
He currently is organizing the Stony Brook World Environmental Forum, which will gather 100 of the world’s top scientists and government officials to discuss the implementation of major international initiatives —addressing solutions to such global issues as climate change, biodiversity, inequities of wealth, AIDS and sustainable development. Leakey is developing a $500 million endowment for wildlife preservation for the National Parks of East Africa.
The son of the famous Drs. Louis B. and Mary Leakey, Leakey has been credited with some of the most significant fossil discoveries of the 20th century. He is the author of over 100 articles and books, including Origins, The Sixth Extinction, and his memoir, Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa ’s Natural Treasures.
The Stony Brook Human Evolution Workshop, which he convened in 2004, brought together many of the world’s leading anthropologists and archaeologists. The workshop shed light on when and how our lineage acquired modern human anatomy and behavior.
Leakey has served his native Kenya as a senior government official, opposition political activist, conservationist, museum director, scientific researcher and farmer. He became Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service in 1989 and led a movement to end elephant poaching in Africa that all but eliminated the international ivory trade. He resigned in 1994, declaring that corruption had undermined the organization.
Despite constant government-sponsored verbal and physical attacks and a plane crash that claimed both of his legs, Leakey continued to fight, establishing the political party Safina to unify the opposition to President Daniel arap Moi. In 1999 he was appointed Head of the Civil Service and Secretary of the Cabinet. Heated conflicts between Leakey and the Kenyan government arose once again and he was forced to step down. Yet his influence remained. In 2002 he supported the historic presidential election victory of opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki, signaling a new day in Kenya ’s future and its fight for democracy.
Leakey has been profiled on 60 Minutes and was named one of TIME’s 100 Greatest Minds of the 20th Century. In 2005, he was recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the 35 most innovators of our time.