Lions are a constant threat to farmers in Kenya, as cattle are their preferred late-night snack. But one family no longer has that to worry about thanks to a 13-year-old boy’s ingenious invention to keep lions from attacking their precious cattle.
Richard Turere has been put in charge protecting his family’s cows, sheep and goats from hungry lions since he was 11 years old. One day, he started moving around at night with a flashlight, and noticed that the lions stayed away because they were scared of the moving light.
So a few weeks later, he came up with a low-cost solution he calls “Lion Lights” — basically LEDs attached to poles that face outward and are programmed to flicker intermittently to resemble blinking flashlights. The lights are hooked up to a switch box and powered with a solar panel and an old car battery.
The Lion Lights seem to be working as intended too, because ever since Richard set them up, the Turere family hasn’t lost a single animal to lions, which is pretty damn impressive.
Even more impressive is the fact that Turere not only came up with the whole idea on his own, but also planned and installed the entire system by himself, with little to no experience or training in electronics or engineering.
“I did it myself, no one taught me, I just came up with it,” he said, according to a CNN report. “I had to look after my dad’s cows and make sure that they were safe.”
Richard Turere’s invention has spread throughout his community, and several of his neighbors have asked him to help them install their own systems.
So far, at least 75 Lion Lights system have been set up around Kenya, and everyone is behind Turere and his invention, which is being praised by conservationists for its humane approach and because it not only saves herds of cattle, but also lions and money.
Stunned by the Turere’s invention and his achievements, Kenya Land Conservation Trust executive director and chairwoman Paula Kahumbu and her colleagues helped the teenager land a scholarship at one of Kenya’s best schools, where he started last April.
Last year, the 13-year-old appeared in a video titled “My Invention That Outsmarted Lions.” He also spoke at the TED conference in Nairobi, and was invited to speak at TED 2013 in California.
“Richard is quite an extraordinary boy,” Kahumbu told CNN, describing him as a “very smart, curious and surprisingly confident [boy] for his age and background,” who has integrated smoothly with his new classmates at school, most of whom come form wealthy families.
“One thing that’s unique about Richard is that if you give him a problem, he’ll keep working at it until he can fix it,” she added. “He doesn’t give up; he doesn’t find things too difficult; he’s not afraid of being unable to do something and I think this is why he is such a good innovator — because he’s not worried that it might not work, he’s going to try and do it anyway.”
Richard’s dream is to one day work in aviation as a pilot and aircraft engineer, and with his ingenuity and ambition, we’re sure he’ll be able to do whatever he pleases in life.