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Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa's Natural Treasures

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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.

336 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2001

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About the author

Richard E. Leakey

37 books64 followers
Richard Erskine Frere Leakey was a paleoanthropologist and conservationist. He was the second born of three sons of the archaeologists Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, and was the younger brother of Colin Leakey.

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5 stars
84 (36%)
4 stars
91 (39%)
3 stars
45 (19%)
2 stars
6 (2%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile.
2,029 reviews588 followers
April 11, 2015
Decent read. It turned out to be much more political than I was expecting, for some reason. I guess I should have assumed it would be highly political. I suppose I was just expecting more action stories directly from the bush. Some of the political explanations and of course, his versions of the stories, almost felt like a campaign. I can definitely see why he's famous for his ego. It came across largely in his writing. He seemed to find a way to tie in every person who had ever talked bad about him, and give a lengthy explanation on why HE was right and they were wrong. I understand that this is HIS book and that is completely his prerogative, but it sometimes came across as unnecessarily defensive, instead of brushing it off. It also added pointless fluff. The book really didn't need so much petty political drama for us to understand the battle against poachers. However, I still respect the book itself and the good that Leakey did is undeniable in the poaching war. I immensely enjoyed the stories of revamping the parks and killing the poachers. That's why it still got 3 stars from me. Another minor gripe is that there were many spelling errors that should have been edited out.
20 reviews
May 20, 2009
A good book about a critical period in KWS's history. I enjoyed it especially as many of the principals written about are friends.
Profile Image for Lauren.
23 reviews17 followers
January 23, 2017
This book is as relevant to todays poaching issues as it was to the time it focuses on. In 1989 Richard Leakey was appointed to be the Director of the Kenyan Wildlife Department. He expresses his passion for Kenyan wildlife and desire to save it as well as his love for his country. However the same problems faced him then as they do now. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, Greed, Money, Lies, and Corruption. These issues are a common theme thru out the book. What it does show is that somewhere there will always be good people fighting for what is right and fighting for a future.
Profile Image for Jennie Richards.
47 reviews5 followers
April 2, 2017
This book was a fascinating read about paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey’s adult life. It focuses mainly on his years following his directorship of Kenya’s National Museums, when the President of Kenya at the time, Daniel Moi, hired Leakey to head the problematic and rogue Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS). What was most interesting is how Leakey was handed a department riddled with corruption, rampant poaching, illegal ivory trade, nonperforming personnel, old and outdated equipment and weapons—all with no funding—and how he attacked and overcame every enormous issue he was dealt. He did it with courage, boldness and great proficiency. After reading this memoir, I have gained tremendous admiration for the man on every level, he is truly inspirational, honorable, highly accomplished and deeply passionate about wildlife conservation and Kenya’s success.

Something Leakey said in the book resonated very much for me and I think is so true: “Responsible government—government that listens to and respects the needs of the people—offers the only way for our elephants, our wildlife, our parks, and our country to endure.”
Profile Image for Deborah Blair.
Author 1 book17 followers
May 23, 2013
Richard Leakey and Virginia Morell are always worth of our attention as we strive to educate ourselves in order to be more effective in our attempts to live sustainably with our fellow Co-Species - equal but differently abled on this planet.

I found that this book moves along in a life adventure as it explains the serious problems along the way - Corruption was rampant (rangers were poaching or in cahoots with the poachers) - Much of the equipment did not work - there was a lack of training for those involved, gasoline was not available to do vehicle patrols. The poachers use automatic weapons, hard to fight. Tourists were/are robbed and killed, which disourages tourism which is a necessary source of income to protect the wildlife.

Dr. Leakey's observations are important - unfortunately he is describing a problem that is more and more prevalent in "different clothing" in much of our world - now openly we are being told that for our own good mining in state and federal lands, blasting of mountains - and many things that will ruin the habitat for all manner of wildlife is okay or to be desired. Many of our politicians are no better than rangers poaching and/or helping the poachers . . .
Do read this book . . and reflect on how the challenges in Africa are also present in many forms in our more "civilized" countries . . . .

Save Vermont, its wildlife and its Green Mountains -Please sign our petition - Save The Lowell Mountains NOW - please post this petition to your pages - we can save our planet! http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save...

The Vermont Green Mountains AND all of their wild life and habitat are under attack by corporations seeking the huge, millions of dollars of Federal Subsidies - If the Lowell Mountains Industrial wind Turbine project goes through - so will more than 30 more and many more mountain tops will be flattened. They are getting around Act 250 - at stake: Wetlands, Wildlife habitat including: Bear, Moose, Deer, Bat, Eagle, Hawk, songbirds, Owl, Woodpecker, Beaver and other habitat. The blasting will ruin the aquifers leading to streams, bogs, wells and wetland alteration and/or destruction. Vermont does not have enough wind to even minimally excuse the destruction of its mountain tops. The rural people of Vermont do NOT have the money to fight this - but with your signatures on the petition - with Joining our Facebook page - Save The Lowell Mountains Now! http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Save... and sending the letters and emails in the NOTES sections - We CAN turn this around! Please - this is happening right now . . . Please help us!!! Please help save Vermont, its heritage beauty, its rural lifestyle, its tourism, and its wildlife
Profile Image for Wendelle.
1,520 reviews25 followers
June 14, 2017
Richard Leakey is a conservation hero who faced difficult decisions and navigated a difficult political environment that resembled a busy intersection of competing interest groups. His tenure as Kenya's wildlife director turned the future of Kenya's elephants and national parks 180 degrees and was marked by vitality, strength of conviction, a grand vision, daring execution, logical decision-making and a flair for the dramatic that served well in international publicity and fundraising. This account is readable for all these reasons but also for his emotionally stirring descriptions of the African landscape and his palpably roguish sense of humor. More broadly speaking, his life as both paleoanthropologist and conservationist was fruitful and brimming with achievement, and a timely remainder of the contributions and impact a person can create when he meets astonishing challenges without surrendering to dispiritedness or cynicism. It's disappointing that the Angelina Jolie movie of his life seems indefinitely postponed.
Profile Image for Brian Griffith.
Author 6 books222 followers
August 28, 2020
Leakey's account reads well, with lots of action and controversy. It gives insight into the complexity and political difficulty of saving the world's wildlife treasures, and in many places it's inspiring. But it's more an autobiography than an analysis of issues, and the perspective is almost always first-person. Leakey presents his views and deeds in a simple, clear way. He boldly defends his record against his detractors. After all, his fight has led him to become a politician, and the book becomes a politician's memoir.
Profile Image for Tara.
51 reviews
July 2, 2018

Very interesting, but ends abruptly. I enjoyed learning about how poaching was stopped and Leakey's struggles in the government. But then he is back for one year and doesn't recount what happened, then briefly mentions being secretary to the president, and the book is over. Would have loved to hear more how those years went and if it helped resolve more issues with KWS.
Profile Image for Kelly.
20 reviews
May 29, 2020
I was concerned when I bought this that it might be a bit... Heavy. With long political jargon and not so easy to understand. But whilst reading, I found it very accessible, interesting and written at a decent pace. I would be interested now to view the same story from a different perspective, perhaps President Moi, Bashir or David Western and see how they differ. However, as they do not yet exist, I have finished the book content, with a comprehensive and thorough recall of events.
September 9, 2019
Eye opening but a good bit of excess as well

Such a shame that so few see the value of our natural resources and have the passion for animals required to protect them as we over populate and encroach on their space. Thank goodness for those in this book who work to save Africa’s jewels.
Profile Image for Lisa Hanson.
73 reviews
March 1, 2020
Funny to be annoyed by the amount of "I, I, I, me, me, me" in a memoir. Found it truly jarring at first, but I learned to get past it and found the story illuminating and fascinating. Good option/companion read after finishing Cry of the Kalahari, and a worthwhile departure from my current aim to devote most of my reading to mostly female authors and authors of color.
Profile Image for Lars.
15 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2018
An interesting book for people interested in the recent historical-political situation and the fight against poaching in Kenya and the personal life story of the son of the world-wide well-known anthropologists Leakeys.
63 reviews
January 21, 2023
A pretty informative book which I've read in preparation for my conservation trip to Kenya. I don't always totally agree with Leakey regarding his conservation methods but it is interesting to get an look into how things work in Kenya. I'm in the country as I write this and it is fascinating to see the places that are spoken about in this book. The joint experience of being in Kenya whilst reading this has opened my eyes to alternative conservation planning. It's quite niche so I'm not sure I'd recommend it to everyone but I found it insightful.
Profile Image for Natasha Soderberg.
20 reviews6 followers
April 19, 2008
I eventually gave up on this book. He is just too self involved and self important for me to be able to see through the writing to the real story. Maybe I'll try again when I retire.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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