“From ages 6 to 9, I started looking after my father’s cows,” Richard says. “I’d take them out in the morning and bring them back in the evening. We put them in a small cow shed at night,” and that’s when the trouble would start. Lions would jump in the shed and kill the cows, which are enclosed and an easy target.
Lions are the top tourist attraction to Kenya, especially in the Nairobi National Park, which is near where Richard lives. Lions are also considered critically endangered in Kenya.
The Kenya Wildlife Service estimates there are just 2,000 lions left in the country. One of the main causes of their demise “is that people kill them in retaliation for lions attacking their livestock,” says Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Wildlife Direct, a wildlife conservation organization in Africa.
She has been studying the conflict between humans and lions, and her work led her to Richard. In one week, she monitored over 50 cases where lions attacked livestock. “It’s a very, very serious problem,” she says.
Her work studying the problem led her to Richard.
One night he was walking around with a flashlight and discovered the lions were scared of a moving light. A light went on inside him, and an idea was born.
Three weeks and much tinkering later, Richard had invented a system of lights that flash around the cow shed, mimicking a human walking around with a flashlight. His system is made from broken flashlight parts and an indicator box from a motorcycle.
“The only thing I bought was a solar panel,” which charges a battery that supplies power to the lights at night, Richard says. He calls the system Lion Lights.
“There have been a lot of efforts to try to protect the lions,” Kahumbu says. “It’s a crisis and everyone is looking for a solution. One idea was land leases, another was lion-proof fences. And basically no one even knew that Richard had already come up with something that worked”…
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