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26 May, 2023 17:51

Kenyan entrepreneur invents system to avoid human-wildlife conflicts

Richard Turere’s Lion Lights are currently used in more than 2,000 homes in the country, according to the European Patent Office
Kenyan entrepreneur invents system to avoid human-wildlife conflicts

Kenyan inventor Richard Turere, who developed a device to ward off lions and other predators from livestock using light sequences, has been named as one of three finalists for the European Patent Office’s (EPO) Young Inventors Prize.

The invention, known as Lion Lights, is designed to flash intermittently, tricking lions into sensing human presence and eventually scaring them away. Turere, a Maasai herder, was 11 years old when he invented the solar-powered light system to prevent his family’s livestock from falling prey to stray lions at Kitengela.

The Horn of Africa country has a long-standing human-wildlife conflict, with communities near the Nairobi National Park struggling to ward off wild animals that hunt cattle, often an essential source of food and income for residents.

Africa’s lion population is estimated to have declined by 43% in the past 20 years, with only roughly 20,000 lions believed to be roaming the entire continent, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, citing “human-lion conflict” as a major contributor to the decrease.

Earlier this month, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) reported that ten lions were speared to death in a “human-wildlife conflict” at Nairobi’s Amboseli National Park after they attacked livestock, in a blow to the country’s conservation efforts. This followed conservationists’ announcement of the killing of Loonkiito, an iconic 19-year-old male lion believed to be the world’s oldest in the wild, in a similar incident.

Authorities said last week that they were engaging with locals to “find lasting solutions” for the issue, despite the government and conservation groups having a compensation program for herders whose livestock is killed by wild animals.

However, Turere, 22, believes his technology, which is now being used in more than 2,000 homes in Kenya, would promote a sustainable and peaceful human-wildlife coexistence. The award organizers said in a statement that no lions had been killed in areas where Lion Lights are installed, while adding that a recent animal census at Nairobi National Park had seen an increase of 15% in the lion population.

Our motto at Lion Lights is that there is no existence without co-existence. For us to be able to live in this world harmoniously, we’ll have to find a way of living peacefully with each other, humans and wildlife,” Turere said, as quoted by the EPO.

Turere’s invention contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 15, which include protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.