Technology March 16, 2013
Young Boy From Kenya Outsmarts Lions With His Ingenius Invention - "Lion Lights"


A young boy in Kenya has come up with a way to help his family and protect lions at the same time.

His name is Richard Turere, he's 13, and he lives with his family on the Kitengela plains outside the capital Nairobi.

The area is not far from Nairobi National Park - a game park full of African wildlife, including lions.

There's an electric fence around the park but only on three sides to keep the animals away from Nairobi.

One side, however, is open - the side that faces Kitengela and lions show up at night and kill people's livestock.

For many folks, livestock is how they make a living. They can't afford to see their animals die, so they end up killing the lions.

As a result the BBC reports that Kenya is "losing on average 100 lions a year, and there are now just 2,000 remaining in the country."

But young Richard seems to have come up with a solution. Two years ago, when he was 11, he invented a system called "Lion Lights".

He used whatever he could find - LED bulbs from broken flashlights, an old car battery, some wires, a solar panel, and a motorcycle turning light indicator box.

He hooked up the light bulbs to the box, and used the battery and solar panel for power, and ended up with a series of flashing lights that keep the lions away.

His invention was so innovative, Richard was invited to this year's TED conference in California.

Here's a video on how the "Lion Lights" work, as well as Richard on stage at TED. He comes out around the 4:20 mark.

The flashing effect of his lights, it seems, is the key.

The BBC spoke with Dr. Charles Musyoki, a senior scientist in carnivore issues for Kenya Wildlife Service.

He says a steady light won't scare lions. But the flashing tricks them into thinking there are lots of people walking around with flashlights.

So, the lions decide it's a risk "not worth taking", Musyoki said.

Richard started experimenting after he noticed lions would stay away when he had a flashlight. But he didn't have any mechanical or electrical experience.

"I was just testing things, I didn't know exactly what I would create," he told the BBC.

In the end, the "Lion Lights" cost less than ten dollars to build. "The first time it worked, it felt great," says Richard, "I felt like I was solving a big problem."

On the surface, it might seem simple, but Musyoki said "no one else in Kenya had imagined putting the lights in this context."

Richard has installed seven "Lion Light" systems for his neighbours, and people all over Kenya are copying his idea.

Inventor or not, Richard is still a kid at heart. He said his favourite part of the TED conference was "petting the sharks at the aquarium" and "seeing Bono!"

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