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TED2013

Richard Turere: My invention that made peace with lions

February 27, 2013

In the Masai community where 13-year-old Richard Turere lives, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.

Richard Turere - Inventor
Young inventor Richard Turere invented "lion lights," an elegant way to protect his family's cattle from lion attacks. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
This is where I live. I live in Kenya,
00:12
at the south parts of the Nairobi National Park.
00:15
Those are my dad's cows at the back,
00:18
and behind the cows,
00:20
that's the Nairobi National Park.
00:22
Nairobi National Park is not fenced in the south widely,
00:24
which means wild animals like zebras
00:28
migrate out of the park freely.
00:31
So predators like lions follow them,
00:35
and this is what they do.
00:39
They kill our livestock.
00:42
This is one of the cows which was killed at night,
00:45
and I just woke up in the morning and I found it dead,
00:48
and I felt so bad,
00:52
because it was the only bull we had.
00:54
My community, the Maasai, we believe that
00:59
we came from heaven with all our animals and all the land
01:01
for herding them, and that's why we value them so much.
01:07
So I grew up hating lions so much.
01:11
The morans are the warriors
01:15
who protect our community and the livestock,
01:18
and they're also upset about this problem.
01:21
So they kill the lions.
01:24
It's one of the six lions which were killed in Nairobi.
01:27
And I think this is why the Nairobi National Park lions are few.
01:31
So a boy, from six to nine years old, in my community
01:36
is responsible for his dad's cows,
01:41
and that's the same thing which happened to me.
01:44
So I had to find a way of solving this problem.
01:47
And the first idea I got was to use fire,
01:50
because I thought lions were scared of fire.
01:55
But I came to realize that that didn't really help,
01:59
because it was even helping the lions
02:04
to see through the cowshed.
02:06
So I didn't give up. I continued.
02:10
And a second idea I got was
02:13
to use a scarecrow.
02:16
I was trying to trick the lions
02:18
[into thinking] that I was standing near the cowshed.
02:19
But lions are very clever. (Laughter)
02:22
They will come the first day and they see the scarecrow, and they go back,
02:26
but the second day, they'll come and they say,
02:31
this thing is not moving here, it's always here. (Laughter)
02:34
So he jumps in and kills the animals.
02:37
So one night, I was walking around the cowshed with a torch,
02:40
and that day, the lions didn't come.
02:44
And I discovered that lions are afraid of a moving light.
02:48
So I had an idea.
02:53
Since I was a small boy,
02:55
I used to work in my room for the whole day,
02:58
and I even took apart my mom's new radio,
03:01
and that day she almost killed me,
03:04
but I learned a lot about electronics. (Laughter)
03:06
So I got an old car battery,
03:12
an indicator box. It's a small device found in a motorcycle,
03:15
and it helps motorists when they want to turn right or left. It blinks.
03:19
And I got a switch where I can switch on the lights, on and off.
03:24
And that's a small torch from a broken flashlight.
03:29
So I set up everything.
03:34
As you can see, the solar panel charges the battery,
03:36
and the battery supplies the power
03:40
to the small indicator box. I call it a transformer.
03:42
And the indicator box makes the lights flash.
03:45
As you can see, the bulbs face outside,
03:50
because that's where the lions come from.
03:53
And that's how it looks to lions when they come at night.
03:56
The lights flash and trick
04:00
the lions into thinking I was walking around the cowshed,
04:03
but I was sleeping in my bed.
04:05
(Laughter)
04:06
(Applause)
04:09
Thanks.
04:11
So I set it up in my home two years ago,
04:16
and since then, we have never experienced any problem with lions.
04:21
And my neighboring homes heard about this idea.
04:24
One of them was this grandmother.
04:28
She had a lot of her animals being killed by lions,
04:31
and she asked me if I could put the lights for her.
04:35
And I said, "Yes."
04:37
So I put the lights. You can see at the back, those are the lion lights.
04:38
Since now, I've set up seven homes around my community,
04:43
and they're really working.
04:46
And my idea is also being used now all over Kenya
04:48
for scaring other predators like hyenas, leopards,
04:54
and it's also being used
04:59
to scare elephants away from people's farms.
05:01
Because of this invention, I was lucky to get a scholarship
05:05
in one of the best schools in Kenya,
05:08
Brookhouse International School,
05:11
and I'm really excited about this.
05:13
My new school now is coming in and helping
05:16
by fundraising and creating an awareness.
05:19
I even took my friends back to my community,
05:24
and we're installing the lights to the homes
05:29
which don't have [any], and I'm teaching them how to put them.
05:32
So one year ago, I was just a boy in the savanna grassland
05:37
herding my father's cows,
05:41
and I used to see planes flying over,
05:43
and I told myself that one day, I'll be there inside.
05:46
And here I am today.
05:50
I got a chance to come by plane for my first time for TED.
05:53
So my big dream is to become an aircraft engineer and pilot when I grow up.
05:59
I used to hate lions, but now because my invention
06:04
is saving my father's cows and the lions,
06:08
we are able to stay with the lions without any conflict.
06:11
Ashê olên. It means in my language, thank you very much.
06:15
(Applause)
06:18
Chris Anderson: You have no idea how exciting it is
06:33
to hear a story like yours.
06:35
So you got this scholarship.Richard Turere: Yep.
06:37
CA: You're working on other electrical inventions.
06:39
What's the next one on your list?
06:42
RT: My next invention is,
06:44
I want to make an electric fence.CA: Electric fence?
06:46
RT: But I know electric fences are already invented,
06:49
but I want to make mine.
06:51
(Laughter)
06:53
CA: You already tried it once, right, and you --RT: I tried it before,
06:55
but I stopped because it gave me a shock. (Laughter)
06:58
CA: In the trenches. Richard Turere, you are something else.
07:05
We're going to cheer you on every step of the way, my friend.
07:09
Thank you so much.RT: Thank you. (Applause)
07:12
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

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Richard Turere - Inventor
Young inventor Richard Turere invented "lion lights," an elegant way to protect his family's cattle from lion attacks.

Why you should listen

Richard Turere is a young Maasai man who lives in the wilderness of the Kenya savanna, on the edge of a national park full of rhino, giraffe, buffalo and lions. Since he was 9, Richard has held the honored chore of tending his father's cattle; in his free time, he tinkered with electrical gadgets. After dismantling the few household appliances, Richard taught himself how to fix them, and then he started inventing. He fit his parents' home with fans made from car parts and other junkyard components harvested from junkyards, then built other inventions for his neighbors.

Now 13, he is renowned for inventing "lion lights," a fence made of basic pieces (solar charging cells, flashlight parts), which quickly and effectively scares lions away from his father's cattle. Richard's dream is to be an aircraft engineer.

Read more about Richard Turere on CNN.com >>

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