Richard Leakey, well-known fossil hunter and conservationist, dies at 77

Kenyan paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey with a rhino horn
Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey places a rhino horn to be burned at a zoo in Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic, in 2017.
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

Paleontologist Richard Leakey, known for his fossil-finding and conservation work in his native Kenya, has died at 77, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced Sunday evening.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Leakey, the son of globally known anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey, held a number of public leadership roles, including director of the National Museums of Kenya and what became the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenyatta’s statement said.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the news of the death of our founder,” the conservation group WildlifeDirect said.


The group’s CEO, Paula Kahumbu, said Leakey had “a natural sense of leadership, old-fashioned but straightforward. His memory was super sharp, and his ability to hold many ideas in the air at once to find common threads was phenomenal. He will be dearly missed.”