‘Lion lights’ illuminate villages, save livestock
Saturday April 18 2015
Pastoralists in Kenya’s Kajiado County have started installing solar-powered flashing lights to deter lions and other predators from attacking domestic animals at night.
The Kenya Wildlife Service, working with the Kajiado County government, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Foundation (TWF) are helping install light emitting diodes (LEDs) on posts around livestock enclosures in the manyattas.
The initiative is using renewable solar energy to mitigate human wildlife conflict, especially in Isinya, a dispersal triangle and migratory route to Maasai Mara Game Reserve from Nairobi, Tsavo West and Amboseli national parks.
WWF’s governance co-ordinator Jackson Kiplagat said continuous attacks by predators test the community’s tolerance and lead to retaliatory killings of the animals.
“Using LED technology, we are scaring away the predators,” he said.
He added that most attacks by lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and jackals occur at night in the manyattas, impacting negatively on the livelihoods of the residents of the semi-arid area.
Kenya has fewer than 2,000 lions, compared with 15,000 a decade ago, a decline attributed to human-wildlife conflict and rapid urban encroachment on their habitat. Livestock herders at times use Furadan, a pesticide, to poison the lions. A tablespoon costs less a dollar.
The predator deterrent lights, now refined by TWF, were developed four years ago by Richard Turere, an 11-year-old schoolboy in Kitengela near the Nairobi National Park.
Turere devised it without any training in electronics or engineering. He had realised that lions were afraid of venturing near livestock enclosures when someone was walking around with a flashlight. He then developed the lights to be fixed on posts.
He used LED bulbs from broken flashlights, an old car battery, wires, a solar panel and a motorcycle turning light indicator box to design a system that flickers intermittently. The system fooled lions into believing someone was moving around carrying a flashlight. A fixed light does not deter them.
In Isinya, the community is also getting a solar household lighting system.
Each household pays Ksh10,000 ($108.69) to receive a solar house lighting system to eliminate use of kerosene lamps that cause pollution, leading to respiratory system infections. WWF pays Ksh25,000 ($271.7) for the predator deterrent light.
“The project has two components ,with each household receiving a solar house lighting system and their livestock being protected through installation of the lion lights,” said TWF’s regional human-wildlife conflict consultant Michael Mbithi.
“The success of this project is expected to be higher because each family is required to contribute towards the cost of installation, thereby creating a sense of ownership and responsibility over the systems.”
Forty homesteads in Ilpolosat, Emarti, Olmirrui and Oltepesi have benefited from the solar-powered kits. The WWF has also installed solar lights in Inkiito, Enarau, Kirkuria, Oldupai and Oltanki primary schools.
“These installations are expected to help pupils enjoy longer learning hours,”’ said Mr Kiplagat.