Lions No Match for Young Boy and His Invention: Richard Turere at TED

“At the age of 6 to 9, I was responsible for my fathers cows,” says Richard Turere, now 13, and having just spoken in front of about 1500 people at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. “And these lions were very annoying, because they were killing my father’s cows.”

Taking his responsibility seriously, Richard set out to find a solution. First, he tried fires, but the fires seemed to make it easier for the lions. Next he tried setting up a scarecrow. It worked for the first night, he said, “but lions are very clever.”

Luckily aside from learning the countless traditional whistle commands a Maasai herder can use to control his cows, Richard Turere also had a hobby of taking apart electronics (such as his mother’s new radio) so still had a few tricks to try.

Noticing the lions would stay away when he walked around with a flashlight, he had a new idea: moving lights. With a few simple wires and bulbs, he rigged up a series of flashing lights, and went to bed. Soon there were 7 households in his community using his “lion lights.”

Richard's diagram shows everything from the solar panels harvesting energy, to the cow being protected by the lights. (Drawing by Richard Turere, Photo by Paula Kahumbu)
Richard’s diagram shows everything from solar panels harvesting energy, to a cow being protected by the lights. (Drawing by Richard Turere, Photo by Paula Kahumbu)


This is where conservationist and National Geographic Explorer Paula Kahumbu came in. While not a frequent problem, lion attacks can be devastating for a family. They can also be devastating for lions, as was seen in 2012 when six lions were killed in apparent retaliatory attacks (read the story, see videos).

As a leader in National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative and director of Wildlife Direct, Paula works with researchers across Africa working to find a way to protect lions by protecting cattle. In general they are developing new techniques and spreading them. When they saw Richard’s invention they knew he had an idea worth sharing.

Conservationist and friend Paula Kahumbu says Richard's confidence has grown incredibly as he prepared for his talk. (Photo by Ryan Lash)
Conservationist and friend Paula Kahumbu says Richard’s confidence has grown incredibly as he prepared for his talk. (Photo by Ryan Lash)


Now households across Kenya use lion lights and protect their livestock from predators and their crops from elephants, and Richard is attending a prestigious high school, studying subjects like foreign languages he never would have otherwise. He also now holds the school record for javelin through at 38 meters. How far did the boy that he beat throw? He answers unsurely, “Like 20-something?”

Richard's goal is to become an engineer and pilot. His trip to TED offered him his first flight in a plane (Photo by Paula Kahumbu)
Richard’s goal is to become an engineer and pilot. His trip to TED offered him his first flight in a plane. (Photo by Paula Kahumbu)


As for the future, he says “One year ago I was just a boy herding my father’s cows. Now I want to be an engineer and pilot.”

I asked him if he’s worried the lions will figure out that moving lights do not necessarily mean someone is watching the cows.

“Maybe they’ll figure out,” he tells me. “But if they figure out, I’ll get another way, because that’s what I do.”

NEXT: How You Can Help Save Big Cats


Learn More

Read All Nat Geo News Watch TED 2013 Posts

Follow Paula Kahumbu on Twitter

Big Cats Initiative Grants

Wildlife Direct

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.
  • james

    Awesome invention,kudos to richard

  • Ima Ryma

    Richard Terere, just a lad,
    In Kenya watched over his cows.
    Lions killed some and that was bad.
    Richard first tried couple of hows.
    Setting fires, but the lions dared
    Maneuvering easily through.
    Scarecrows, but the lions weren’t scared.
    What was Richard going to do?
    He noticed lions stayed away
    From him with his moving flashlight.
    So flashing lights he did array.
    The cows stayed safe and sound all night.

    Thank you, Richard, for your young solve,
    Good proof that humans can evolve.

  • michelle padron

    Smart kid! Great invention! He has a bright future (literally).

  • jack

    thats awesome!!!!!!!!

  • Koizen

    Now this gives me hope for humankind, it will be up to the children to figure out the problems that past generations have created….we need to support these young minds with their own ideas anyway possible…they are the future

  • David

    What a clever (and brave!) young man!
    He wouldn’t be related to one Barak Obama would he by any chance? Go Kenya!

  • David

    What a clever (and brave!) young man!
    He wouldn’t be related to one Barak Obama would he by any chance?

  • Anthony Kodonyo

    That was a bright idea and he is determined to save the cats. Kudos

  • Willi

    This young chappie, most certainly has a GREAT Future…
    Well done son…….God is good to you…..The Lord Bless…Regards oWilli


    i congratulate this little boy with great vision. parents shpuld study their children well to know their capabilities to change their environment

  • John-Pio

    That is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • shirley

    great! he is so brillient

  • mms

    It’s so refreshing to see children solve not one but many problems with the simplicity and ingeniousness that, sometime, only they have. Richard, I hope all your dreams come true!!

  • Dianne Strycharz

    What an amazing young man, and with a good sense of responsibility.

  • Joan

    I just posted this story to my Facebook page. I have been working to save our wolves..and there are so many ways ~especially guard dogs or guardian dogs ~ but there ARE way ~ and all our gov’t does is kill, kill, kill. There are practically none left. This young man, with nothing but radio parts, has been protecting an entire village from LIONS ~ what imagination and understanding of the earth & its inhabitants. Those in charge of the USA have lost that & the precious wolves, necessary for a health balance of animals, are doomed.

  • James Kotikash

    Well done cousin! We hold the future for a hopeless community whose fortunes are dwidling very fast n from all corners. You are destined for great things.
    The Lord is with you.

  • Brian Pinsonneault

    This is awesome the cats and the cows get saved. Love the cats have two just not that big. T

  • ruslan mochamad

    brilliant young boy.but poor the lions.but we share the land altogether.wish you dream comes true to be an engineer nor pilot nor politician maybe..

  • James Lockwood Jr

    This recent story of the boy who thwarted lions and other predators came to mind after some study. This young boy never gave up on trying to protect His father’s herd. He was determined to overcome!

    This morning I was in study, reading 1 John. Towards the end of my study, I got to focusing on the Light of this world and the darkness of this world. 1 John 1:5 through 1 John 2:14 teaches us that walking in the light is walking with Jesus. It also states, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness whatsoever.” Throughout this reading it talks both about light and darkness. Verses 10 and 11 of 1 John 2 tells of whoever loves lives in the light and whoever hates lives in darkness. If we want to live for Christ we must let His light shine at all times through us.

    1 Peter 5:8…”the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” So true as the Word talks about Good vs Evil, Light vs Darkness. This young boy from Kenya failed a few times in finding a solution to defeat the lions, but he never gave up. The lions were very clever! They would attack at night in the darkness. So fascinating it is that this young boy Richard, determined to defeat the enemy, came up with lights as a deterrent. He overcame! He beat the lions!

    I want to break down this diagram of the picture he drew. The picture is of a wiring diagram, we use often, to show how things work when tied together. Picture this… the lights in the diagram are Jesus Christ, the transformer is the Holy Spirit(Rom.12;2), the solar panel in the diagram is God. The solar panel enables all to power. But wait that still leaves the battery. We already have God the Father, Christ Jesus and His Spirit. What more do we need? Hold on though…God is light, Jesus is the light of this world and the Holy Spirit guides us in this light. There is still the battery that has connections in the diagram. We know batteries die unless charged, and the charger is the solar panel. What now does the battery represent? The battery is the Bible! The Book of Life!….what about the cow in the picture? The cow is being protected with the help of all the components working together. Haha we are all cows! Alright just in the diagram though. We are all God’s children. He wants nothing more than to protect us.

    The Word of God is our basic instructions(Prov.8:33) on how to live. Jesus is our light(John 8:12)that shines. The Spirit guides(John 16:13) us to live in that light. God gave us all this because He loves us! There is no darkness in His Love. He simply gave us a diagram to show us how “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose”(Rom. 8:28.) God gave us instructions!

    I hope you all enjoy what God has put in my heart to share. All Glory to Him who loves us! Be Blessed!

    James Jr

  • Shuba Thomas

    Awesome work Richard! Truely happy to read this news about this brilliant boy. And also thanks to brother James who had the coutesy to explain the relationship between the situation and the Lord’s Word. Doesn’t every good thing we do and experience reminds us that the Lord is always there for us…Praise the Lord.

  • Gary Ignatius

    Cool! I wish I could do something like that. You are awesome!

  • blob


  • Anne

    Amazing! Humble beginings not stopping you from great innovations and big dreams! Hope one of your dreams is to inspire young people by talking to them!

  • David Mundy

    This boys story is the BEST EXAMPLE of a quotation I heard once that goes like this:
    “There are no IMPOSSIBLE PROBLEMS,
    Richards story impressed me as much as anything I ever heard on TED.

  • christian

    wowo never whould have thought of that

  • samuel macharia

    nyc one Richard!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sherbet

    he’s amazing i loved his story

  • green

    well rounded kid. its good he is now given a different option other than herding cattle.

  • Albert Costello

    good job richard

  • Emmanuel Thiam

    James Lockwood thank you for this information.Everything you said is right.You said nothing but the truth.

  • Tom

    David in Wales, I’m certain he has no relation to Obama, as he’s done something useful.

    Good job, son. I’m sure that you will make a great engineer, pilot, or whatever you set your mind to.

  • Marlene H

    Very impressive indeed. Not only did he figure out a strategy, he was able to construct his strategy, without any formal training, and with solar energy yet. How interesting, how it came about! This great mind of a boy will not go wasted!
    I think James Lockwood JR. interpretation of how god works in our lives was great! Using Richards schematic as an example of how god works. I just loved it all !!!! God Bless you Richard, and please keep gods light with you too.

  • Marlene H

    It is now January 2016, it would be nice to read a follow up on Richards story:)

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