The East African country of Kenya is known for its amazing wildlife, especially lions. However, over the last decade the population of the majestic animals has decreased from 10,000 to just over 2,000. While most can be attributed to poachers, some big cats also fall victim to the local tribes trying to save their cattle.
In order to protect the majestic animals, the Government of Kenya has recently come up with a compensation system. But it is expensive and far from perfect. Now, thanks to an ingenious idea by a young boy, man and beast may finally be able to coexist peacefully.
At an age when most of you are heading to Middle School, 11-year old Richard Turere, was put in charge of the family's herd of cattle. While that may sound a little cruel, it's pretty much the custom of the Masai tribe that he belongs to and is actually an honor since cattle is considered the family fortune.
The only problem was that their land happened to be located adjacent to Nairobi National Park, home of the largest number of lions in the world. As a result, the family often watched helplessly as the hungry cats dragged off one of their cows, sheep or goats especially, in the middle of the night when there was no one on watch.
While installing electrical fences would have been an obvious solution in the USA, that is not possible for Kenyans given the high cost involved and the fact that most of them do not have access to electricity.
Richard decided he had to do something to alleviate this dire situation. One thing the young boy observed was that whenever a guard was walking around with a flashlight, the big cats kept away because believe it or not, they are inherently afraid of humans. So, he decided to create an automated flashlight.
The fact that he did not have the money to buy the supplies he needed, did not seem to deter the determined boy. He simply extracted some LED bulbs from broken flashlights, bunched four or five of them together and rigged up an automated lighting system that he affixed all around the cattle stockade. He then wired the bulbs to a box with switches, which in turn was connected to an old car battery that was being charged by a solar panel, built by the family to power their television set. To ensure that the cattle did not get disturbed, the lights were all placed outward into the darkness and flash sequentially, so that it appeared to the cats as though someone was walking around the farm the entire night.
The result? In the last two years that Richard's lion light system has been protecting his herd and that of some of his neighbors, not one has been lost to predators. In addition to the lions it has also kept human thieves away. Also, as the simple device that costs just $10USD to make gets more widely adopted, it will end up saving the Government of Kenya millions of shillings in compensation.
The best news of all however, is that the educators at Brookhouse International School in Nairobi were so impressed by what Richard could do with no access to books or technical help and yes no internet, that they decided to provide him with the necessary skills, by granting him a full scholarship. Richard of course, aspires to be an engineer!