Maasai Inventor Richard Turere Wins Young Inventor Prize for Lion Lights

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The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced that Richard Turere, a Maasai inventor from Kenya, has won the Young Inventor Prize at the European Inventor Award 2023. Turere was recognized for his innovative solution to protect his community’s livestock from lion attacks without harming the endangered lions.

The problem of human-lion conflict

Lions are one of the most iconic and majestic animals in Africa, but they are also facing a serious threat of extinction. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the lion population in Africa has declined by 43% in the past 20 years, with only about 20,000 lions left in the entire continent.

One of the main causes of this decline is the human-lion conflict, which occurs when lions prey on livestock that belong to local communities, especially the Maasai people who live near wildlife areas. Livestock is a vital source of food and income for the Maasai, and losing them to lions can have devastating consequences. To protect their livelihoods, many Maasai resort to killing lions, which further reduces their numbers and affects the area’s biodiversity and tourism.

How Turere Invented the Lion Lights

Richard Turere was only nine years old when he took on the responsibility of herding and safeguarding his family’s cattle in Kitengela, on the edge of Nairobi National Park. He witnessed firsthand how lions would attack his cattle at night, and how his community would retaliate by hunting them down. He wanted to find a way to stop this cycle of violence and coexist peacefully with the lions.

He noticed that lions were afraid of humans and would stay away from areas where they saw moving torchlights. He decided to replicate this effect by using LED lights that would flash in different sequences around his cattle enclosure. He powered the lights with car batteries charged by solar panels, and connected them to vehicle indicator flashers. He called his invention Lion Lights.

To his delight, his invention worked. The flashing lights confused and scared away the lions, and they stopped attacking his cattle. His family and neighbors were impressed by his innovation and asked him to install Lion Lights on their properties as well. Soon, over 2,000 homes in Kenya were using Lion Lights to deter lions and other predators such as hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs.

Turere’s invention not only saved his cattle but also saved the lives of many lions. He also helped conserve the environment by using renewable energy sources and recycled materials. His invention attracted international attention and was implemented in several other countries where human-wildlife conflict was a problem, such as Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Argentina, and India.

The recognition of Young Inventor Prize

Turere’s invention earned him a scholarship to Brookhouse School, a prestigious international school in Nairobi. He also received several awards and honors for his work, such as:

  • A TED talk in 2013 that has over 2 million views
  • A CNN feature in 2014 that named him one of Africa’s brightest young minds
  • A National Geographic Emerging Explorer award in 2015
  • A Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2016
  • A Queen’s Young Leader award in 2017

The latest recognition for Turere is the Young Inventor Prize from the EPO, which he received at the European Inventor Award 2023 ceremony in Valencia (Spain). The Young Inventor Prize is a new category that was established by the EPO in 2021 to inspire the next generation of inventors. It honors young innovators aged 30 or under who have developed technological solutions that address global challenges and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Turere’s invention aligns with UN SDG 15: Life on Land, which aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

Turere expressed his gratitude and excitement for winning the prize:

“Today, my team and I might seem too young for people to take us seriously. But we are going to compel them to believe in us through our achievements and recognition like the Young Inventors Prize is part of that journey.”

He also shared his vision and motivation for his invention:

“I want this story to inspire the young kids that they too can do something. Anyone can make it. Anyone can change this world.”

Turere is an example of how young people can use their creativity, curiosity, and courage to solve problems that affect their communities and the world. He is a role model for aspiring inventors who want to make a positive difference with their ideas.

We congratulate Richard Turere for winning the Young Inventor Prize and wish him all the best for his future endeavors!

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