Kenyan Teen Invents Lion Repellent Device

Richard Turere talks about his multiple approaches to keeping livestock and lions alive in Kenya.

Richard Turere had a problem with lions. His family lived on the outskirts of the Nairobi National Park and lions were eating their livestock. The warriors in his Masai community took to killing the lions but Richard wanted to find a better way to keep his livestock safe.

In his TED Talk, My invention that made peace with the lions, Turere outlines the solutions that he had to keep the lions away and discusses their effectiveness. Fire was the first method used, because he felt the lions would be afraid of the flames. The flames didn’t help and may have even aided the lions to see their prey.

Next was a scarecrow. The lions were afraid of the scarecrow at first but soon realized that it was an unmoving figure and renewed their attacks. Inspiration came when Richard was guarding the cowshed and walking around with a torch, he realized that a moving light will deter the lions.

Turere salvaged the parts to create a moving light – a car battery, a turn signal switch from a motorcycle, a switch and a flashlight bulb. His device allowed the lights to flash and tricks the lions into thinking that there is movement and they stay away.

Richard Turere is an incredible speaker, and that fact is only amplified when you consider he’s a thirteen year old boy. A few times during his talk his eyes seem to look out over the crowd and realize just how many people he’s talking to, and his delivery becomes even more entertaining. This example of an iterative design project is great for students and educators alike to see, to understand the importance of brainstorming multiple solutions and the power of persistence.

The Lion Light device, or variations on the idea, is now being used all over Kenya to keep predators away from domesticated animals. Turere was awarded a scholarship to one of Kenya’s top schools and now works in the community to proliferate Lion Lights. Richard says his next project is an electric fence, and he wants to build his own design instead of using current product.