MUNICH – The European Patent Office (EPO) on 4th July 2023 announced that Maasai inventor, Richard Turere, won first place in the Young Inventor Prize at the European Inventor Award 2023.
Mr Turere was distinguished for developing a system to ward off lions and other predators from livestock using light sequences in order to protect his community’s livestock without harming the endangered lions. “Today, my team and I might seem too young for people to take seriously. But we are going to compel them to believe in us through our achievements and recognition like the Young Inventors Prize,” says Richard Turere.
The winner will receive EUR 20,000 (Ksh3 milion), the second and third placed finalists will receive EUR10,000 (Ksh1.5 million) and EUR5,000 (Ksh750,000), respectively. An independent jury comprising former finalists of the European Inventor Award selects the finalists and winner.
Mr Richard Turere invented the Lion Lights system at age 11. As a young Maasai boy, Mr Turere was entrusted with the vital responsibility of herding and protecting his family’s cattle from predators. He recognised the need for a solution to deter lions and other predators from attacking livestock, which led him to develop the innovative light system that has since gained global recognition.
Lion population in Africa is estimated to have declined by 43% in the past 20 years, with roughly 20,000 lions thought to be roaming the entire continent, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Many lions are killed to stop them from eating precious livestock, which is a key concern for the Maasai of Kenya.
Turere was named the winner of the second edition of the Young Inventors Prize, which the European Patent Office (EPO) established to inspire the next generation of inventors. The prize recognises young innovators aged 30 or under who have developed technological solutions to tackle global problems and help reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mr Turere’s invention contributes to UN SDG 15: Life on Land, which includes protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
Protecting prey and predators
Many prey animals of the Nairobi National Park, near where Turere grew up, seek shelter in communal lands to escape the threat of predators. And so lions have been drawn to hunt livestock in areas where humans live, which puts the local communities’ food and income at risk.
Efforts by the government to pay farmers for their lost animals were too expensive and unsustainable. To counteract this risk, lions were often killed, significantly impacting the lion population, the area’s biodiversity and tourism.
After testing several ideas, Mr Turere’s invention, known as Lion Lights™, is based on a simple concept: visually replicating the human presence that keeps lions away. Using changing sequences of flashing lights mounted on fences, the lions cannot become comfortable with the patterns and are discouraged from hunting livestock.
As word of his technology and its success spread, other community members began requesting the system for their properties, and now over 2,000 homes in Kenya use Lion Lights. The system typically runs on solar energy but can also be coupled with wind power when the weather is cloudy or there is little sun.
It has attracted international attention and has been implemented in several other countries, including Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Argentina, and India, where it has helped deter various species of animals, such as hyenas, leopards and cheetahs. “I want this story to inspire the young kids that they too can do something. Anyone can make it. Anyone can change this world,” says Mr Turere.
The Young Inventors Prize winners were announced on 4th July at the European Inventor Award 2023 hybrid ceremony in Valencia (Spain).
In 2013, he founded the Lion Lights organisation, which now collaborates with more than 50 young people in his native village. Mr Turere’s dedication and resourcefulness earned him the attention of Wildlife-Direct, a charitable organisation led by Dr Paula Kahumbu. Through their support, he won a scholarship to Brookhouse School in Nairobi, where he studied A-Levels. He later completed a BA in Global Challenges and Wildlife Conservation at the African Leadership University.
In recognition of his achievements, Mr Turere has received numerous accolades, such as a special commendation at the Africa Leadership Awards, being a finalist at the Anzisha Prize Awards, and being named a National Geographic Young Explorer in 2020. He was also a finalist for a Future for Nature award in 2021.
Aimed at innovators aged 30 or below from all around the world, Young Inventors Prize recognises initiatives that use technology to contribute towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.