Kenyan Boy's Invention Scares Off Lions

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Thirteen-year-old Kenyan Richard Turere faced a serious problem: Hungry lions were attacking his family’s precious herd of cattle. So the enterprising boy came up with an ingenious, low-tech solution to keep them away.

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Lions are a constant threat to farmers around Nairobi National Park in Kenya. Cattle were their preferred late-night snack. Turere, 11 years old at the time, was charged with protecting his family’s cows, sheep and goats. He noticed that the lions stayed away when he moved around at night with a flashlight, CNN’s Teo Kermeliotis reported.

A few weeks later Turere came up with a low-cost solution that came to be known as “Lion Lights.” He attached LEDs to poles around the animals’ area and faced them outward. Turere programmed the lights to flicker intermittently, resembling a human with a flashlight. He hooked them to a switch box and powered them with a solar panel and an old car battery.

Since Turere set up the Lion Lights, his family has not lost a single animal to lions, CNN reported. The boy’s invention spread and he’s helped his neighbors install their own versions. So far 75 similar systems have been set up in the country.

Turere’s work impressed Kenya Land Conservation Trust executive director Paula Kahumbu and her colleagues, who helped him get a scholarship at one of the country’s best schools. And last year he was featured in a video entitled “My invention that outsmarted lions” (video), spoke at the TED conference in Nairobi, and has been invited to speak this week at TED 2013 in Long Beach, California.

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The Lion Lights are being praised for saving cattle, saving lions, and saving money. Conservationists appreciate its humane approach. As for Turere, he dreams of being an aircraft engineer and pilot. If anyone can make flying greener and more efficient, I’m sure it’s this promising young man.

Photo: Richard Turere’s “Lion Lights” in Kenya. Credit: Paula Kahumbu via CNN.

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