Teenager Uses Technology to Protect Livestock from Lions

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions


In Kenya, a teenage Maasai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people) inventor has developed a way to chase lions away from livestock that doesn’t harm the lions. It is a common practice to kill lions when they threaten or kill livestock, and this has led to a precipitous drop in the local lion population at Nairobi National Park (http://www.kws.org/parks/parks_reserves/NANP.html/), near the country’s capital, Nairobi. Lions are a significant tourist attraction for Kenya and the population decline is a threat to the future of the tourist industry.

Trying to find the right balance between livestock and wild animals is a problem across the global South. As populations rise, and the number of animals kept for domestic food markets increases, so does conflict between farmers and predatory wild animals looking for an easy meal. And there is no more tempting easy meal than domesticated animals tamed and kept in herds.

According to Reuters, 13-year-old Richard Turere has developed a system of flashing lights to scare off lions at night. The LED (light-emitting diode) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode) bulbs were gathered from broken flashlights. Turere then wired them to a solar-powered car battery used to power the family’s TV.

Turere has placed the lights on poles surrounding the enclosure where the cattle stay at night.

“Lions were eating our cattle at night, which made me very annoyed,” he told Reuters. “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.”

Nairobi National Park is wild and unfenced, leaving lions free to wander on to farmland. Tragically for the lions, increasing numbers are being killed by farmers protecting herds. Conservationists say Kenya’s lion population has plummeted from 15,000 to just 2,000 in a decade. Since October 2011, Wildlife Direct (http://wildlifedirect.org/) has documented 169 killings of livestock by lions in the location near Turere’s farm.

Kenya depends heavily on tourism to the national parks where people want to see lions. Kenya has been enjoying significant growth in tourism and has the goal of reaching 2 million international tourists in 2012 (Kenyan Ministry of Tourism). Earnings from international tourism are the second largest source of foreign exchange for the country and the services sector – 63 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) – is dominated by tourism (Brand Kenya). So-called ‘photo safaris’ to the country’s national parks and game preserves are the main attraction for international tourists.

But farmers need to have their herds protected since livestock are a critical income source for them, as well as a food source for the country. Cattle herding has long been an important income source and livelihood for the Maasai people.

According to conservationist Dr. Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Wildlife Direct, other herding families would like Richard to set up the light system on their farms too.

Since Richard installed the lights, his family has not lost any cattle to lions. This bright idea has also dramatically altered Turere’s life. The attention he has received for the invention has led to him being funded by local environment groups to attend a prestigious private school, Brookhouse International School (http://www.brookhouse.ac.ke/) in Nairobi. Things are truly looking bright for Turere!


1) Experience Kenya: The web portal packed with information on Kenyan tourist attractions and investment opportunities. Website: http://www.experiencekenya.co.ke/index.php

2) Brand Kenya: The official Brand Kenya website shows how the country is weaving together all things Kenyan to create a strong global brand for the country. Website: http://brandkenya.co.ke/

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