By Amy Tourgee, guest blogger, Kent Place School alumna and Environmental Studies undergraduate at Princeton University
I remember something that really struck me in Kenya was a tension between humans and wildlife. As a foreigner, you see the wildlife as such a unique feature of Africa – especially Kenya – and I assumed that the Kenyans would be protective of the animals. Kind of like how you could go to jail for killing a bald eagle in America, or something.
This human-wildlife conflict arises from the occurrence of wildlife – specifically lions – killing the Kenyans’ cattle. Because cattle is the livelihood of Kenyans, the citizens view lions as an enormous threat to their survival and, rightfully so, become very angry with the lions. In retaliation, many times the villagers will purposefully hunt and kill lions. This, of course, has implications for tourism, as the main attraction of Kenya is the wildlife. This tension sets up a big problem for the Kenyan government – who do they side with? Their own citizens or their economy? And because the two are inherently linked, it makes for a difficult reconciliation.
Anyways, during one of our policy-making classes, we focused on this issue and worked a lot with a young Maasai teenager, Richard. He discovered that lions are afraid of moving light during the night time (seems kind of wussy for a lion but whatever) and engineered this contraption to simulate a moving light to keep lions away from the cattle in the middle of the night – watch his TED talk here – he’s seriously amazing and totally cool.
It’s just remarkable to me to think about the role of technology in this “industry” of livestock. This new invention has undoubtedly increased production (number of cattle) while decreasing production costs (no need for Richard to watch his cattle at night anymore). Richard even made his invention open source, which has created a technological diffusion – Kenyans all over the country have made and used their own!
As an ex-engineer, I’m super impressed by Richard’s innovation and it’s quite inspiring.