13 year old Kenyan innovator saves cattle from lions with lights

Richard Turere lives in Empakasi,on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, just south of the City of Nairobi. He is responsible for herding his family the livestock and keeping them safe from predators, especially lions. Being so close the park puts this family’s cattle right in the path of lions and every month they lost cows, sheep and goats. Nairobi Park has the worlds highest density of lions, and they often predate on livestock which are easier to catch.

Bringing the cows home

Bringing the cows home

 

At the age of 11 Richard decided to do something about his family’s losses. He observed that the lions never struck the homesteads when someone was awake and walking around with a flashlight. Lions are naturally afraid of people. He concluded that lions equate torches with people so he took the led bulbs from broken flashlights and rigged up an automated lighting system of four or five torch bulbs around the cattle stockade.  The bulbs are wired to a box with switches, and to an old car battery charged with a solar panel that operates the family Television set. The lights don’t point towards the cattle, or on any property, but outwards into the darkness. They flash in sequence giving the impression that someone is walking around the stockade.

 

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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 dollars just for materials, then there’s the cost of transport and labour it is way out of the price range fore the average pastoralist. Richards invention is cheap, local, cost effective and easy and quick to install and to maintain.

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What is extraordinary about this story is that Richard has had no books or access to technical information. He says he does not know where he gets the ideas or the knowledge, and yes, he has given him self plenty of electric shocks.  His father James is proud of his son, and has given him space to tinker and collect bits of gadgetry. Like so many boys, Richards dream has something to do with aircraft – he wants to be an engineer.  When I first asked him about lions he said he hates them, but his invention has saved many as lions are often killed in retaliation for killing livestock. Now we need help on scaling up this idea.

 

Richards illustration of his invention

Richards illustration of his invention

Richard has just been awarded a scholarship at Brookhouse School where he intends to excel. This was all possible through support from Friends of Nairobi Park (FoNNaP) members, Michael Mbithi, Nickson Parmisa, Neovitis and Elvis, Winnie Khasakhala, Brookhouse School, AAR who have provided full medical cover.

139 comments » Write a comment

    • Please – Keep your narrow mind off the list Jeff – Give honor where honor is due!

  1. am speechless to you RICHARD, Iam Malawian but after reading your beautiful story i vave seen that you have a very bright future ,may God be with you always.!!!

  2. I am so inspired by this little african genius, this only go to show that black africans are so clever, and innovative, and can think of things that will help others, instead of making weapons of mass distruction, i only hope some company are some collage will patient this innovation for Richard, before some clever person or company steal it and claim it. I am so proud to be a black decendent from africa, and respect to all my black brothers and sisters, as the struggle continue.

    • For those who are ignorant to, or refuse to accept the fact that we are “all” Africans.. from Africa.. Here is something for you, (PBS) The Journey of Man by Dr. Spencer Wells.. The Story of the Human Species.. It’s the best educational human species “dvd” on the planet.. it also comes in a book if you prefer a book.. to the in the closet, or out of the closet racist, you are no better than anyone else, we are all the same, Africans.. DNA don’t lie !! Good job Richard Turere !!

  3. From: Edson Zvidzayi
    I am proud of you Richard, keep it up. You showed the world, what Africans are made of. Innovation is not only for the West, yes we can. I wish you good luck in your indevours. You equalled Jobs, Bill Gates, Mac and the paraphernalia. My ululation from Zimbabwe!

  4. I congradulate the young man from kenya on being able to see into his soul for that is the place inventions come from. i hope that opertunity will let him realize his dreams.

  5. Richard,
    You are very birght kid, God will make your dream come true.
    I wish I have money to have with your dream but , I know a lot of people out there help you with your dream. I borke down when I saw your Vedio I wish I have a son like you. I would do anythings to make your dream come true. I wish I am in Africa to see you right now.

  6. congraltions your a awesome young man which I am sure you will go far in life and thank you for helping to preserves one of God’s creations I love wild life and especially cats God bless you

  7. Mjukuu wangu,

    Acha waseme; Mungu akubariki uzidi kuwa na akili nyingi!

  8. I think this young man is remarkable. His feelings of responsibility to his family are wonderful & many of the kids of today (in this country, especially, ) could take lessons in family loyalty. Lets, applaud him for his ingenuity .! Keep up the good work, Richard!!!!!

  9. Richy you are such a darling. All glory goes to God who inspired your little mind. Just acknowledge His might in all your doings AND SEE HIM TAKE YOU TO higher heights.
    Shalom!

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