Tech Keeps Kenyan Livestock Safe From Lions
It’s amazing what you can do with an old car battery and a broken flashlight, At least, that’s the case if you’re as innovative as Richard Turere, a young man from a Maasai community just south of Nairobi National Park in Kenya.
Using only recycled parts, Turere has solved one of the biggest challenges facing those who live on the grasslands at the borders of the national park; keeping hungry lions away from livestock.
Thirteen-year-old Turere recently talked to the audience at TED2013 in Long Beach, Calif. about the “lion lights” he created to prevent lions from killing and eating his father’s cattle at night. His invention is saving the lives not only of the community’s livestock but of Nairobi National Park’s waning number of lions, who can now be managed with gumption instead of guns.
Turere said that he tried several different strategies before settling on “lion lights,” an idea that he came up with one night while walking around the cowshed with a flashlight. He noticed the lions didn’t come around when they saw the cowshed was not only lit up but guarded by the person holding the light.
Turere, of course, didn’t want to have to walk around the cowshed every night, so he figured out a way to trick the lions into thinking that’s what he was doing when really he was warm in bed.
Turere attached an old car battery to an indicator box- or blinker box-from a motorcycle. He then ran wires from the blinker box to flashlight bulbs attached to different fence posts. The blinker box serves as a transformer, sending electric currents to the bulbs, which take turns shining their lights on encroaching lions.
Using a solar panel to charge the car battery during the day and a light switch located inside the cowshed to power on the lights before bed, Turere has truly found an innovation solution to what is a very serious problem for Maasai farmers, who had previously resorted to killing the big cats in order to save their herds.
Turere’s knack for solving difficult problems did not go unnoticed by those in his community, who have since asked Turere to replicate his “lion lights” for their own cowsheds. Farmers in other parts of the country have also adopted his idea for scaring off lions and other predators like hyenas and leopards.
The young man’s cunning also gained the attention of administrators at the Brookhouse International School in Nairobi, where he now attends school on a full scholarship. The school is also helping him fundraise for his project of bringing “lion lights” to other farmers in his community.
Turere also has plans to make his own version of an electric fence, a project which would further benefit communities like his, which live on the border of a park that is teaming with big cats, elephants, and other creatures who pose dangers to people and livestock.