Sometimes solutions to human-lion conflict can be found in unlikely places. You may have heard of Richard Turere: the 13 year-old Kenyan boy who invented an ingenious system for safely keeping lions from attacking livestock. Knowing that lions were scared of people carrying torches (flashlights) at night, he rigged a series of automated flashing LED light bulbs around his livestock pen. The blinking lights trick lions and other predators into thinking a herdsman is present, so they don’t attack livestock.
These “Lion Lights” have been fine-tuned and scaled up, and are being used in various parts of Kenya. Ewaso Lions currently uses five Lion Lights in two different areas, and so far they have been 100% successful in keeping livestock safe from lions. And by preventing lions from attacking livestock in the first place, this eliminates the incentive for people to kill lions in retaliation.
We began using Lion Lights after a streak of lion attacks on livestock prompted us to take urgent action. In December, lion attacks on livestock were escalating south of Buffalo Springs National Reserve in an area called Ngare Mara. With the long wet season, prey had dispersed out of the Reserve, so the resident lion pride turned to easier prey: livestock in Ngare Mara.
Lions were actually entering bomas (homesteads) and killing goats almost every night. We started getting calls from the local people who were extremely upset, having lost a lot of livestock, which serves as the main livelihood for many. We responded by working with management from the Nakuprat Conservancy to hold community meetings.
When people were threatening to retaliate and kill lions, we decided this would be a good place to trial the Lion Lights. We worked with Michael Mbithi from Green Rural African Development (GRAD), who quickly came to the area and installed three units. Since the installation of the lights, there have been no more attacks in the Ngare Mara area. “Finally I can sleep at night,” one elder told us.
Richard Turere’s invention is the best kind; it’s simple, practical, affordable, solar powered, and doesn’t harm wildlife.
We love Richard’s story because it shows that innovation can happen anywhere – it’s not only happening in Silicon Valley. It’s happening in young minds in rural parts of Kenya, too. “I did it myself, no one taught me, I just came up with it,” says Richard. “I had to look after my dad’s cows and make sure that they were safe.” Also, it shows how critical conservation education and capacity building are for young Kenyans. Budding conservationists like Richard need to be identified and supported so they can flourish.
We are so happy to see Richard getting recognition for his invention. He has been featured by many news outlets, including CNN, National Geographic, and NPR. Just last week he even gave a TED talk in California. In our eyes, young Richard is a true wildlife hero!
Want to help?
Because we employed the Lion Lights as a rapid response measure during an urgent time, we did not have planned funds to purchase the units. If you are interested in supporting our work and helping cover the costs of Lion Lights, please make a donation. We need your support!