13 Year Old Boy’s Invention Solves Key African Agricultural Problem

Richard Turere’s Lion Light system is made out of LED bulbs and a car battery to prevent lions from eating livestock.

The Nairobi National Park lays four miles south of Kenya’s capital city, with just one fence keeping wild animals away from humans. This makes for a lot of human-animal conflict, especially between lions and cattle farmers. Richard Turere, 13, was raised to see lions as the enemy because they killed his family’s main source of income, their cows. So when he was 11, Turere came up with a solution to save his cows, and unintentionally save the lions.

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Turere tried to figure out what lions were afraid of. He realized that lions seemed to stay away when people would patrol the grounds with a flashlight, ‘they are afraid of movement,’ he says. So he sought to replicate the movement of a person holding a flashlight. Taking a motorcycle indicator, some LED bulbs and an old car battery powered by a solar panel, Turere set up a system of lights, facing outward into the darkness of the park. The lights, now known as Lion Lights, flicker on and off intermittently throughout the night.

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Since he invented this lighting setup two years ago, there have been no lion attacks on his family’s cattle. And like all good ideas, his spread, with 75 farms now using similar systems. Turere received a scholarship to Brookhouse International School for outsmarting the lions, and now hopes to continue to use his innovative thinking to study airplane engineering.

His system is beneficial for farmers, but also for the lions, an endangered species whose population is rapidly declining due to conflict with humans. It is a conflict that is costly, both in animal life and in compensation to the farmers for lost income. Turere shows that cow, lion and human can coexist, with a little ingenuity and an old car battery.

Turere presented Lion Lights at the TED Conference 2013 in Long Beach, Calif. this week. Below is a video from his presentation at the TEDxNairoibi conference  last year:

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