Kenyan Teen’s Solar-Powered ‘Lion Lights’ Save Prey & Predators

It’s not easy to be a rancher in Kenya. Most of the land is just wild savanna, full of apex predators. These giant hunters don’t understand that a flimsy fence means “stay out.” This means constant conflict between humans and animals, especially lions and cattle farmers.

For decades, Kenyan ranchers have killed these majestic beasts to protect their livelihood. But a 13 year-old boy’s clever solar-powered invention just might be answer to protecting cows, and in the process, endangered lion prides.

solar power, lion lights

Image via TED video

By the time he was 11, Richard Turere was tired of being scared of lion attacks. Tasked with watching over his family’s most valuable asset–cattle–Turere knew first hand how terrifying it could be to spot a lion in the brush. But unlike any adults in his community, Turere picked up on something very important about lion behavior.

“He realized that lions seemed to stay away when people would patrol the grounds with a flashlight, ‘they are afraid of movement,’ he says. So he sought to replicate the movement of a person holding a flashlight.” Using a turn signal switch from a motorcycle, some LEDs, and an old car battery powered by a solar panel, the young inventor fashioned a system of flickering lights that could be installed on a fence and aimed out onto the savanna. The lights, now known as ‘Lion Lights’, flicker on and off intermittently throughout the night, keeping the lions at bay.

Since he invented this lighting setup two years ago, there have been no lion attacks on his family’s cattle. And like all good ideas, his spread, with 75 farms now using similar systems. Learn more in the TEDxNairobi video below.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog