Lion Lights


Richard Turere at TED Conference
TED Conference, via Flickr

In many places, there is conflict between farmers and wild animals. Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at an invention helping farmers and lions in Kenya.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It is night in Nairobi, Kenya. On the edge of the Nairobi National Park, farmers sleep in their homes. Their cows sleep in fenced areas for the night. These cattle fences keep the cows close to the farm. But the fences do not stop lions. These large wild cats often hunt at night. Usually, they eat other wild animals. But when they live near farms they sometimes kill and eat the cows. On this night the lions get close to the cattle fence. But then, the lions see bright lights. The lights flash, turning on and off. The lions run away. They act as if there are people holding the lights. They do not know that no one is awake! An eleven year old boy invented these flashing lights. Today’s Spotlight is on lion lights. Lion lights are helping people and lions live together peacefully.

Voice 2 

Nairobi is the fastest growing city in the world. Sixteen percent of the city is Nairobi National Park. This natural area contains wild animals. Many people from around the world come to Nairobi to see the animals. This wild land is very important for the environment. But as the city grows, people and animals must live very close together. This can cause some problems.

Voice 1 

There are many places where Nairobi National Park is not fenced. This means that wild animals leave the park land. Some of these animals, like lions, kill and eat other animals, such as cows. But farmers depend on keeping cows to make money. So when lions kill the cows it is a big problem. Then people often feel they must kill the lions.

Voice 2 

People kill the lions in different ways. Some people use weapons. People also use poison. They use a pesticide like Furadan. This is a chemical that kills insects. But in large amounts, it also kills animals. Paula Kahumbu is a Kenyan conservationist. She works to protect the environment and animals in Kenya. Kahumbu told CNN:

Voice 3 

“Kenya’s lions have reduced from 15,000 about 15 years ago to fewer than 2,000 now. And we know that 50% of that is because of the use of pesticides, especially Furadan.”

Voice 1 

Kahumbu and others have been working to help people find other ways to solve the problem of lions. Many of the people Kahumbu works with are Maasai. The Maasai are one of the traditional tribal groups in Kenya. Many Maasai people live near the Nairobi National Park. The Maasai value cattle highly. They often keep a lot of cattle. Usually, young Maasai boys are responsible for caring for the cattle. But what can a young boy do when lions attack?

Voice 2 

Richard Turere is one of these Maasai boys. He lives near the southern part of the Nairobi National Park. A lion killed his family’s only male cow - their bull. Turere wanted to find a way to keep the lions away. He did not want to kill them. But he did not want them to kill his cattle either! He tried different methods to keep them away, but the lions kept returning. Then Turere made a discovery. He told the story at a TED talk in the United States:

Voice 4 

“One night I was walking around the cowshed with an electric light in my hand. That day the lions did not come. I discovered that lions are afraid of a moving light. So I had an idea. I got an old car battery and an indicator box. That is a small device found in a motorcycle. It helps drivers if they want to turn right or left. It flashes. And I got a switch where I can turn on the lights, on and off. So I set up everything. The lights flash. They trick the lions into thinking that I was walking around the cowshed, but I was sleeping in my bed!”

Voice 1 

Now when lions come to Turere’s farm they see flashing lights. And they do not touch the cattle. Richard Turere was eleven years old when he invented these ‘lion lights.’ Two years later, no lions have come to Turere’s farm. Soon his neighbours saw this new system to keep away lions. They asked him to help them set up lion lights on their properties too. Turere set up seven neighbouring homes with lion lights. He says the lights are working very well.

Voice 2 

Many people heard about Turere’s invention. Paula Kahumbu came to visit Turere. She says his lion lights are a good example of what local people can do. She told the Star newspaper:

Voice 3 

“Richard Turere was so faithful but it did not work for two months. After a time, it worked. But he really did not have a sense of how important his invention was. It is an amazing result from a child of that age. He even comes from a community where the level of education is very low. The really important thing to remember is this is a local child, not some outsider who has come up with a good idea. This is a local invention. It does not cost much and is easy to do.”

Voice 1 

One of the best schools in Kenya offered Turere a scholarship. The scholarship pays for his education. He is now attending a good school. This school is now teaching people about living together with wildlife like lions. Turere’s school friends even visited his community. There Turere taught them to put up lion lights. They are like many people in Kenya who are working to help Kenyan wildlife. Paula Kahumbu explains:

Voice 3 

“In many parts of Maasai land we have programs where people are given something for protecting wildlife. They are praised for keeping land open. They are trained so that they can take part in conservation. And they are given chances to get investors to come in and work with them. I really think that is the solution."

Voice 2 

Sometimes the best solutions are simple and local. Richard Turere’s lion lights are a simple design. But they are part of solving a very big problem in Kenya. As Turere said:

Voice 4 

“I used to hate lions. Now because my invention is saving my father’s cows and the lions, we are able to stay with the lions without any conflict.”

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Luke Haley. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Lion Lights’.

Voice 2

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Are there conflicts between farmers and wild animals in your country? How can people protect animals, and themselves?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on October 22, 2013

This is a great device created by a clever young boy, almost a child. The excellent invention is really very important because of protecting the people, their cattle and the lions too. Maybe the number of wildlife in Kenya will increase in future.
Thanks for the article!

Avatar Spotlight
Mss Flamboyant
said on December 05, 2014

It is a great idea to protect wildlife.

Avatar Spotlight
nguyenthuy
said on February 09, 2015

i was highly surprised at the young boy .He is only eleven years old but he can make a invention help the resident in there to keep their cattle far away lions   . In addition , he also protects the lions and wildlife in Kenya . The experience in real life taught him how he could do to far lions away . There is interesting story ! Thanks

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Nurlan
said on March 18, 2016

Thanks for the interecting story!