Wherever humans and wild animals come into close contact with one another, there will likely be negative consequences for one or the other, or both. In this case, however, neither has come off worse as a result of living in close proximity to each other.
13-year-old Richard Turere, who lives in Empakasi, on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, just south of Nairobi, has invented a system that keeps his family’s cattle safe from lions that had previously sought an easy meal from their herd.
Looking after the cattle is one of Richard’s chores at home, and the family lost cattle on a monthly basis until Richard had his moment of brilliance.
When he was 11, Richard observed that the lions never struck the homesteads in the area when someone was awake, or walking around with a torch.
He also knew that lions are naturally afraid of people, and concluded that therefore, lions are probably also afraid of the association they may have made with people and torches.
Richard then decided that he would take the LED bulbs from broken torches, and rigged up an automated lighting system of four or five torch bulbs around the family’s cattle kraal.
He wired the lights to a box with switches, and to an old car battery charged with a solar panel.
It was the same system that operated the family TV, but the LED lighting system wouldn’t draw as much power as conventional bulbs might.
Instead of pointing inwards towards the cattle, the lights point outward into the darkness, and they flash in sequence giving the impression that someone is walking around the kraal.
Richard’s artistic impression of the invention…
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In the two years that his lion light system has been operating, the Turere family has had no predation at night by lions. To Richard he was just doing his job – protecting the herds. His father is beaming, stock thieves will also think twice about visiting a homestead where it appears as if someone is awake. Five of the neighbours noticed that they were getting hit by lions but not the Turere homestead. Richard has already installed the lion lights system in their bomas too.
For conservation and human wildlife Conflict management, this simple innovation is a breakthrough. The Kenya Wildlife Service Report that human wildlife Conflict has cost the government Ksh71 million in compensation in 2011 alone. In Kitengela consolation of several million has been paid to the community for the loss of livestock to lions alone.
This figure will rise dramatically as new legislation comes into play. Richards little device of four or five lamps, some wires and a few batteries costs less than ten dollars and has saved his father tens of cattle and therefore it has saved donors several thousand dollars in consolation. The alternative being applied elsewhere is the construction of lion proof fences but at the cost of $1 000 just for materials, then there’s the cost of transport and labour it is way out of the price range fore the average pastoralist. Richard’s invention is cheap, local, cost effective and easy and quick to install and to maintain.
Richard had no idea how he’d come up with the concept, and he also had no books or technical information to help him. But he does know he wants to be an engineer.
You’ll be pleased to know that Richard has been awarded a scholarship at Brookhouse School, which is in a leafy suburb of Nairobi, where he’ll be attending and getting closer to his goal.
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