In this engrossing memoir, one of the most controversial, influential, and inspirational figures in African politics today gives the full story of his crusade to save Kenya's natural resources, and specifically the African elephant--a crusade that set him against internal corruption, poverty, and dangerous criminals. Sometimes at the risk of his own life, Leakey's love of Kenya, and his convictions about the direction his country--and all of sub-Sahara Africa--must take to survive, have been unshakeable. Wildlife Wars is the odyssey of an extraordinary man in an extraordinary land.
In conservation and wildlife preservation, paleontology and East African politics, few have mattered more than Leakey (The Sixth Extinction), who emerged as an expert on early humans, building on his famous parents' discoveries as he explained in the 1983 memoir, One Life. This second memoir describes his high-stakes second career. In 1989, Leakey became the head of Kenya's Wildlife Department, which put him in charge of saving elephants from the poaching that risked their extinction. Leakey and Morell explain, with speed and cogency, the murderous business of poaching and the difficulties of the Wildlife Department in 1989 perhaps "the most corrupt organization" in Kenya; "everyone thought the poachers were invincible" in fighting it. Leakey arranged a bonfire of seized ivory, a public relations triumph. He also issued semi-automatic weapons to park rangers. Gangs retaliated, in part, by killing George Adamson, of Born Free fame; public reaction helped Leakey and allies achieve an international ban on the ivory trade. Leakey later found his work and his life in peril, and a 1993 plane crash cost him his legs. Leakey and Morell (who has also penned a book about the Leakeys, Ancestral Passions) tell a brisk and vividly personal story. Though longer on laws and press conferences than on elephants, the memoir will fascinate anyone interested in conservation or East African politics. The detailed narrative stops in 1994, when Leakey first left his Wildlife job; subsequent events including Leakey's ascent to Parliament as an opposition candidate occupy just a few pages. Readers will await those stories eagerly, while holding out hopes for Kenya and its pachyderms.