As a general rule of thumb, I try not to take care of things that would ever come under the risk of a lion attack. And even if a lion did attack something I was looking after, that would be my last time looking after whatever it was. But then I’m kind of a pampered guy.
Richard Turere is a 13-year-old Kenyan boy who has been in charge of herding and safeguarding his family’s cattle since he was nine years old, despite the fact that lions attacking and eating the cows was a common occurrence. It didn’t take him very long to devise a way to limit his losses, and the “Lion Lights” were conceived.
Noticing the way lions would disperse as he walked around the pen with his flashlight, Turere, now 11, ingeniously rigged a system of LED lights around fence poles, hooked up to a switchbox and an old car battery. He designed it to where the lights would randomly turn on and off in different places, giving off the impression of movement. He even set the device up with a solar panel to keep the battery charging during the day. Without a moment of electronics training, Turere used good old-fashioned ingenuity and tinkering to get the job done.
“I did it myself, no one taught me, I just came up with it,” says Turere. “I had to look after my dad’s cows and make sure that they were safe.”
The lights were an immediate success, and in the last two years, not a single attack has occurred, and the positive results are two-fold. With livestock alive and well, the lions are no longer seen as a threat and aren’t hunted nearly as often as they once were. Which might be negligible if it were just the Turere family, but since the “Lion Lights” came into being, over 75 of young Richard’s systems have been put into place on farms and stockades around Kenya. Someone introduce this kid to late-night infomercials.
Turere is in California this week, having been invited to take part in this year’s TED Conference, whose theme is “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.” Might as well add “The Lion-free” to that list there, Ted, or whatever your name really is.