Kenyan paleontologist and conservationist Richard Leaky (77) died. He provided evidence of the origin of man in Africa and committed to the fight against ivory trade and protection of the African elephant.
Leaky was a son of anthropologists couple Louis and Mary Leaky. The couple also researched the origin of the human being. As a 23-year-old, in the 1960s, he was allowed to do excavations on the shores of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
His excavations produced several spectacular remains of early human species, such as a 1.9-million-year-old skull of a homo habilis in 1972 and a 1.6 million-year-old skull of a homo erectus three years later.
The most famous find of his research group was that of the Turkana boy in 1984, the almost complete bone of a gay ergaster. This human species similar to homo erectus lived 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago.
In the 1980s, Leaky went against the ivory trade, because he feared that hunting for ivory would lead to the extinction of the elephant.
In 1989, he became head of the Kenya Wildlife Service. In a documentary, he is accused of ordering poachers to kill poachers. Last month, he denied that in an interview in de Volkskrant. According to him, his rangers only shot if they were held at gunpoint themselves.
In September, he was a guest at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. That museum has created a design for a museum in Kenya about the evolution and origin of man. Construction is due to begin this year.
“Im surprised that homo sapiens are not yet on the list of endangered species,” said Leaky according to Leidsch Dagblad. “To prevent the extinction of man, we must restore the balance between humanity and nature.”