July 16 - A teenage Masai inventor has come up with an inexpensive way to keep livestock safe from lions without having to kill the lions in the process. Thirteen-year-old Richard Turere has devised a system of flashing lights which scares the predators away from Masai farms at night. He says the system is good for the livestock, good for the farmers and good for the lions. Jim Drury reports.
Thirteen-year-old Richard Turere's bright idea is aimed at preserving his family's cattle, and Kenya's dwindling lion population at the same time. To prevent lions from attacking the cattle at night, the schoolboy has invented a 10 dollar lighting system to scare them off...and away from farmers who kill the predators on sight. SOUNDBITE (English) LION LIGHTS INVENTOR, RICHARD TURERE, SAYING: "Lions were eating our cattle at night, which made me very annoyed, and I thought that I have to come up with an idea of making bulbs. Because I knew that the lions were afraid of something moving. When someone wakes up at night and moves with a torch, they are afraid. So I made the bulbs which flash at night and keep away lions." The LED bulbs came from broken flashlights. Richard attached them to poles on the roof of the open-air enclosure housing the family cattle. He wired the lights to the solar-powered car battery which powers his family's TV. SOUNDBITE (English) LION LIGHTS INVENTOR, RICHARD TURERE, SAYING: "This is the negative one and this is the positive one and these wires carry the power to the lights outside." Lions frequently wander onto farm land from the nearby, unfenced, Nairobi National Park and, in increasing numbers are being killed by farmers protective of their herds. Conservationists like Paula Kahumbu say Kenya's lion population has plummeted as a result, from 15,000 to just 2,000 in a decade. And she says the killing of lions is accelerating. SOUNDBITE (English) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WILDLIFE DIRECT, PAULA KAHUMBU, SAYING: "Since October 2011, we documented 169 killings of livestock by lions in that location and nobody harmed the lions, and now suddenly they did kill these lions." But since installing the lights, the Turere family hasn't lost any cattle, and neighbouring families want Richard to install similar set-ups for them. And local environmentalists are now paying for Richard to attend Nairobi's prestigious Brookhouse International School. Teacher Raymond Wyngaard says he's impressed. SOUNDBITE (English) BROOKHOUSE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL TEACHER, RAYMOND WYNGAARD SAYING: "He seems to have a passion for it, a passion for nature and things that are good, which in terms of the school is a good addition..also for the other students who have been here a while, sometimes they take things for granted and then someone like Richard comes in and he sees things in a different light." Lions are a major tourist attractions in Kenya's game parks. But for the masai, cattle herding is essential to survive. Thirteen year old Richard Turere has found a way for the two to coexist. Jim Drury, Reuters