Elephants' saviour to have leg amputated after plane crash: Leader of war against poachers flown to Britain for treatment. Nicholas Schoon reports

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The Independent Online
RICHARD LEAKEY, who led the fight against ivory poaching and the slaughter of the African elephant, is to have his lower left leg amputated in a Nottingham hospital after being injured in an air crash in Kenya.

The head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Dr Leakey, 48, was flying near Nairobi last month when he crashed in the mountains. Although his four passengers escaped serious injury he suffered multiple fractures in both legs and feet.

Originally an anthropologist, Dr Leakey organised safaris and followed in the fossil-hunting footsteps of his parents, Louis and Mary Leakey. His success in finding bone-rich sites, his theories about human origins and behaviour and his books brought him renown.

In 1989, the President of Kenya, Daniel arap Moi, appointed him head of the new Kenyan Wildlife Service. Dr Leakey declared war on elephant poachers and staged the public burning of 60 tons of confiscated tusks. Later that year the ivory trade was banned around the world by the United Nations.

After the accident, the surgeon Mr Christopher Colton flew to Nairobi to operate on Dr Leakey and returned with him to Nottingham for further operations at the Queen's Medical Centre. The left leg will be amputated below the knee during the next fortnight.

Dr Leakey said: 'After being fitted with an artificial leg, I'm certainly hoping to fly again and resume normal service. It's useful to have an understanding of anatomy when I'm talking to physiotherapists about my bones.'

He hopes to return to Kenya next month, but will have to return in September for a further operation.

(Photograph omitted)