Many of you may have heard the good news, and if not, it is with great pride that I share with you that 13 year old Richard Turere from Kitengela started learning at Brookhouse school on a full scholarship. This is a FoNNaP Success story that we can all be proud of because we have been able to respond to a real community need and provide a solution to the wildlife conflict in the area. This story started only a few weeks ago in mid February, when visiting Tanzanian colleagues, Neovitis and Elvis who had joined our predator monitoring team, reported excitedly that they had discovered a 13 year old Kenyan genius by the name of Richard Turere.
Richard Turere lives in Empakasi,on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. He is responsible for herding his family the livestock and keeping them safe from predators, especially lions. Being so close the park puts this family’s cattle right in the path of lions and every month they lost cows, sheep and goats.
At the age of 11 Richard decided to do something about the losses. He observed that the lions never struck the homesteads when someone was awake and walking around with a flashlight. Lions are afraid of people. So he took broken flashlights and rigged up an automated lighting system of four or five torch bulbs around the cattle stockade. The bulbs are wired to a box with switches, and to an old car battery charged with a solar panel that operates the family Television set. The lights don’t point towards the cattle, or on any property, but outwards into the darkness. The lights flash in sequence giving the impression that someone is walking around the stockade.
In the two years that his lion light system has been operating, the Turere family has had no predation at night by lions. To Richard he was just doing his job – protecting the herds. His father is beaming, stock thieves will also think twice about visiting a homestead where it appears as if someone is awake. Five of the neighbours have asked Richard to install the system in their bomas too. Given our relationship with Brookhouse School it seemed only natural that we ask the Director, Mr John Oconnor to consider a scholarship. And he said the unthinkable, Yes!
For conservation and human wildlife Conflict management, this simple innovation is a breakthrough. The Kenya Wildlife Service report that human wildlife Conflict has cost the government Ksh71 million in compensation in 2011 alone. In Kitengela consolation of several million has been paid to the community for the loss of livestock to lions alone. This figure will rise dramatically as new legislation comes into play. Richards little device of four or five lamps, some wires and a battery costs less than ten dollars and has saved his father tens of cattle and therefore it has saved donors several hundred thousand shillings in consolation. The alternative that we had been examining was the possibility of building lion proof fences but at the cost of 1,000 dollars each for materials, plus the cost of transport and labour it was difficult to fund raise for it. This invention is cheap, local, cost effective and easy to install and to maintain.
Richards father confirms that his son has been tinkering with electronics since he was a little boy. He has no books or access to technical information. He does not know where he gets the ideas or the knowledge, and yes, he has given him self plenty of electric shocks. Richards father James is proud of his son, and has given him space to tinker and collect bits of gadgetry. Like so many boys, Richards dream has something to do with aircraft – he wants to be an engineer. But unlike anyone his age, he is already making a difference to his family, his community and to conservation. When I first asked him about lions he said he hates them, but his invention has saved many. His invention serves the purpose that our monitoring program had set out to achieve, to find a local solution that we can scale up. We look forward to hearing from you about how we can finance the scaling up of the invention as a cost effective way of keeping lions and leopards away from bomas at night.
I have had the honor of spending time with Richard and of being his guardian while he schools at Brookhouse. He is thrilled with the school which he has visited several times. He is bright, funny, curious, and bold. He loves science and inventions and is looking forward to playing soccer and making friends.
Richard’s proud parents James and Veronica Turere are delighted that Richard has been selected for a scholarship. They have expressed huge gratitude and thanks to FoNNaP members, Michael Mbithi, Nickson Parmisa, Neovitis and Elvis, Winnie Khasakhala, Brookhouse School, AAR who have provided full medical cover (thank you Jagi and Mrs Beckman) and Nish at Mambo Africa for a great pizza lunch just before he signed into the school to start his first day.
We will keep you updated on his progress, and invite Richard to talk to members about his inventions at one of our members meetings.