Kenyan Teen's Invention Saves Lions, Helps Farmers

. Young inventor Richard Turere with his family's cattle.

A 13-year-old inventor in Kenya has come up with a low-cost, eco-friendly way to protect his family's livestock that could also serve as a solution to a serious problem in his country -- managing human-wildlife conflict.

With their land located near Nairobi National Park, an area boasting the world's highest density of lions, Richard Turere's family often saw their cows, sheep, or goats fall prey to the hungry big cats. But Richard, who herds and protects the family's livestock, noticed that lions stayed away as long as someone was walking around outside with a flashlight. The African innovation blog AfriGadget describes the clever idea he concocted next:

[Richard] took the LED bulbs from broken flashlights and rigged up an automated lighting system of four or five torch bulbs around the cattle stockade. The bulbs are wired to a box with switches, and to an old car battery charged with a solar panel that operates the family television set. The lights [point] outwards into the darkness. They flash in sequence, giving the impression that someone is walking around the stockade.

Reducing Human-Animal Conflict
Since installing the system, Richard's family has experienced no problems with night predation by lions, though neighboring homesteads lost animals before he set up the lights in their yards too, AfriGadget reported.

. Richard's illustration of his invention.

Human-animal conflict is on the rise in both Africa and Asia as wildlands get converted to agricultural use and human settlements encroach ever-closer on animal habitat. Typically both sides suffer, with farmers losing valuable animals and crops and many lions and other wild creatures being killed in retaliation.

Due in part to conflict with humans, along with habitat destruction and climate change, the Kenya Wildlife Service predicted in 2009 that the country's lions could be extinct within 20 years or less.

A Cheap, Local Solution
From chili-treated ping-pong balls to beehive fences, a lot of creative solutions are being developed to allow people and wildlife to live in harmony. Richard's lighting system, which he created with no books or access to technical information, costs less than $10, compared to lion-proof fences that require $1,000 worth of materials plus transportation and labor.

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