BusinessTechnologyTechnology: Herders embrace Young Kenyan's invention

Mon,20Nov2017

Posted on Thursday, 14 November 2013 13:16

Technology: Herders embrace Young Kenyan's invention

By Jocelyne Sambira

Cattle are important to the Maasai culture and their way of life, and cows are a form of currency. Photo©Andy Lederer, Flickr In spite of their environmental and economic value, wildlife can wreck great havoc to livestock. But a simple local invention by a young Kenyan Maasai is easing human-wildlife conflict, especially in an area where cows are considered as a form of currency.

Five flashlight bulbs, an old car battery and a solar panel were the only tools 11-year-old Richard Turere used to put together a system of lights that keeps his family's cattle safe from lions.

Turere's simple invention costs less than $10 and it's easy to install and maintain. It also works to prevent elephants from trampling people's crops.

Wired to a car battery charged with a solar panel, the lights flash in sequence and scare off hungry lions.

"Lions are not afraid of a steady light, but flickering lights from multiple sources confuse them and therefore discourage them from approaching" The BBC quotes Dr. Charles Musyoki, senior scientist at the Kenya Wildlife Service, as saying.

Richard earnestly began looking for a way to outsmart the lions after the family bull was killed. His family lives right behind the Nairobi National Park, and lions often lurk in his village to hunt prey.

Young Richard's breakthrough came while he was herding cattle back to their shed. He saw a lion retreat in the dark when he shone his flashlight.

Conflicts between humans and wildlife in Kenya are frequent. It's estimated that Kenya loses more than 100 lions every year, often to "mob justice" from locals angered by the loss of their livestock, according to The Economist.

The Kenya Wildlife Service reports that such conflicts cost the government huge amounts of money. Over $800,000 was paid in compensation fees for the affected people in 2011 alone.

But with wildlife tourism accounting for huge profits, locals tend to believe the animals are more valued than they are.

Richard's invention has earned him nicknames like "the solar lion tamer" or the "Maasai lion whisperer," a reference to his descent from the Maasai of Kitengela savannah in Kenya.

Cattle are important to the Maasai culture and their way of life, and cows are a form of currency for the seminomadic and mainly pastoral people of south Kenya and parts of Tanzania.

Since Richard installed the "lion lights" in his neighbourhood, the attacks have dwindled. The invention helped him "make peace with lions," he says.

Jocelyne Sambira writes for United Nations Africa Renewal Magazine.



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