The Leakeys have been in Kenya since Richard's grandfather Harry arrived from Reading as a missionary early this century. Louis and Mary Leakey, Richard's parents, discovered the fossils of the 1.75 million- year-old Homo habilis in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, establishing man's origins in Africa. Louis, who was born in Kenya and grew up with the Kikuyu tribe, died in 1972.

Richard left school before A-levels to start a safari business, but followed his mother and father into fossil-hunting when he was 23. He married Maeve, herself a well-known animal palaeontologist, and made his name with his exploration of Koobi Fora, near Lake Turkana, where his team found a skull called KBS1470, the oldest ever found. His books include Origins (1977) and The Making of Mankind (1981).

Richard's younger brother, Philip, remains a member of the ruling Kanu party, and was foreign minister until he lost his seat in 1992. They have not been in touch since Richard came out against the government, but Philip once remarked of his brother: "Arrogant, yes. A racist, no."

Their older brother, Jonathan, has a game lodge and plant-exporting business on an island in Lake Baringo, President Daniel arap Moi's constituency. This week, one of the President's associates publicly threatened Jonathan with eviction, prompting Richard to demand: "What kind of Kenya is this we see, where they launch into a personal attack against someone who clearly has nothing to do with what I'm doing or my interests?"