Richard Turere: How my lights help keep lions and livestock alive

Environment & Climate
By Beldeen Waliaula | May 29, 2023
Richard Turere from Kitengela, invents flashing lights to mitigate human wildlife conflict. [Beldeen Waliaula, Standard]

Just like any other young Maasai man, 23-year-old Richard Turere is tasked with protecting his family’s cattle.

Having been brought up in Kitengela, near the southern side of Nairobi National Park, it is normal to have encounters with wild animals straying from the park. 

Predators, including lions, hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs often invade the human-inhabited areas to prey on their livestock. Herbivorous wild animals also compete with their livestock for grazing land. 

Despite their efforts to live harmoniously with wildlife, one danger kept disrupting their lives - lions. 

“One day, lions killed nine of my cows in a week and I had to find a solution to end this cycle as we Maa people value our livestock so much,” Turere says.

Whenever lions strayed into human-inhabited areas, they often ended up being killed. This trend was severely affecting their population. According to World wide fund for Nature (WWF), the lion population has declined by 43 percent in the past 20 years. 

The Kenyan government has been making efforts to reduce the number of lion killings by financially compensating farmers whose animals were killed but it became a costly and unsustainable affair.

Turere’s solution had to keep both his family’s livestock and the lions safe.

That’s when the idea of inventing flashlights to scare away lions sprouted. He would invent a system to ward off lions and other predators from invading human-inhabited areas by using light sequences.

He came up with “Lion Lights,” a system that deters predators such as lions from attacking livestock using flashing lights. Operating predominantly on solar energy, with the ability to harness wind power during cloudy weather or low sunlight, Turere’s invention provides a sustainable eco-friendly approach to conservation. 

“It’s a simple concept replicating the human presence that keeps lions away. When the lions venture into the area, they trigger a sequence of flashing lights. They become uncomfortable with the changing patterns and therefore run away. I am still improving the innovation to ensure it works optimally,” Turere says.

His invention has been adopted by families living near the park and beyond. He says that since the adoption of the Lion Lights, no lion has been killed around the Nairobi National Park and that the park has witnessed a 15 per cent increase in lion population.

“There is no existence without co-existence. If we need to be able to live in this world harmoniously, we’ll have to find a way of living peacefully with each other -- both humans and wildlife,” Turere says.

The Lion Lights idea has attracted international attention and it has spread its wings to Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Argentina, and India.

Turere, who has now founded  his own organisation was named as one of the three finalists for the second edition of the Young Inventors Prize, which the European Patent Office (EPO) established to inspire the next generation of inventors.

The prize recognises young innovators aged 30 or under who have developed technological solutions to tackle global problems and help reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

His invention promotes SDG Goal 15 of life on land which includes protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

Turere hopes his innovation will inspire the next generation to co-exist peacefully with wildlife.

“I want this story to inspire children so they too can do something. Anyone can change this world. If I did it coming from this community, and with no education or resources then anyone can make it,” he says.

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