The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: 14-Year-Old Inventor Tapped For TED Talks

TED Global has just announced that 14-year-old Kenyan Maasai inventor, Richard Turere, will speak at the next TED conference alongside Bono, the lead singer of U2 on February 26 in Long Beach, California.

Turere invented Lion Lights, an innovative solution to the human-lion conflict that has made major contributions to lion conservation and livestock protection.

TED is a conference that brings together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design t o share ideas Worth Spreading. The theme of the Long Beach conference is "The Young the Wise the Undiscovered".

Richard was discovered during a community predator conservation project in Kitengela just south of Nairobi Park where six lions were slaughtered in June 2012.

The project is funded by National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative, and local NGO's WildlifeDirect and Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP).

"We realised immediately that this was a golden opportunity to support and showcase local innovation and solutions to an age old problem of lion human conflict which was causing the decimation of Kenya's lions," says Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect, who is also the Chair of FoNNaP and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

"Kenya's lions have been reduced to fewer than 2,000 individuals as a result of killings in retaliation to livestock depredations. Apart from impoverishing Kenya's wildlife heritage, the killing of lions by pastoralists threatens the tourism industry and the Kenyan economy.

Richard's innovation has the dual advantage in that it saves lions and livestock" she added. Lion lights have been installed by conservationists across Kenya to support lion conservation efforts and are contributing to the protection of lions which is an endangered species in Kenya. Richard has installed them in the homes of six of his neighbours.

In his TED Talent search presentation in August 2012 Richard explained that since the age of nine he was responsible for his fathers cattle which were frequently attacked by lions from Nairobi National Park which is home to over 40 lions.

He concluded that since lions never attacked when he was awake walking around with a flashlight, he cold trick them into thinking that he was awake so that he could get some sleep.

At age 11 he came up with an innovative solution using ordinary components including LED torch bulbs, wires, batteries and solar panel and an indicator switch Richard connected these together in a novel way to achieve flashing lights or what he calls "Lion Lights".

What makes this story even more extraordinary is that Richard Turere has never learned electronics at school or through books.

"I am very excited about going to America and meeting new people and sharing my ideas" stated a beaming Richard on learning that he had been selected from a panel of 20 Africans who competed for the opportunity to speak on an international TED stage.

He was the youngest candidate selected for the conference.He has also been granted a scholarship by Brookhouse International School. Dr Kahumbu will be accompanying Richard on his trip to the USA.

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