May 22, 2014
If there is a system whose effectiveness and impact can be easily measured and realized within the shortest possible period, it has to be Richard Turere’s Lion Lights Invention in February 2012. After refining the system in August 2012, Michael Mbithi, David Mascall and Sandy Simpson installed over 300 bomas with the system and in the one year that the system has been working, only 3 cases of predation inside bomas have been reported out of the 300 units in Kenya and 25 units installed in Jambezi area near Hangwe National Park in Zimbabwe and farms around Livingstone in Zambia.
Through the support and sponsorship of the Emakoko, Ololo Lodge, Brookhouse Schools, Michael Mbithi and Sandy Simpson, the Lion Lights System has not only been installed in the Athi Kapuitiei dispersal area that remains of critical importance to Nairobi National Park but to other areas across the country that are adjacent to National Parks including those in the Masaai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli and Tsavo West and in Laikipia. Other areas with the systems installed include the Machakos ranches, Samburu and Isiolo.
Other than having considerably reduced incidences of predation, the system has gained popularity among pastoral communities in that it is a preventing measure and as compared with the Consolation Program previously run by Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP) and The Wildlife Foundation (TWF), it is less cumbersome. The Consolation Program had stalled several times due to lack of funds and the livestock owners had to make several trips to Kenya Wildlife Service often returning home empty handed and disappointed. The Consolation Program also only paid a small token that was not equivalent to the value of the livestock killed and basically served as cooling of tempers and insurance of wildlife. The basic logic was that there was need of having a livestock and wildlife carcass and the livestock owners were “consoled” so as not to retaliate and kill wildlife. The Consolation program also involved a lengthy and often tedious verification process and payments would take long due to fundraising challenges. Some livestock owners would in the process not report predation cases and remained disgruntled. To have skipped December 2013 without lion killings in the Kitengela was a great relief for many having lost 6 lions in June 2012 and 3 in December of the same year due to retaliation by community members.
FoNNaP, through the sponsorship of Cheli and Peacock, installed 3 bomas with the system in the Kitengela. 25 bomas in the area have had the system running for one year now and The Wildlife Foundation has financed the repair of these systems. Michael Mbithi has been in the field for the better part of February and March doing the repair works which also includes upgrading the system with adjustment including wiring protection and installing of an automatic lighting system as well as change of deflectors from white to blue. The Kenya Wildlife Service has also finished the initial procurement process and will be financing the installation of the improved system in 30 bomas in Kitengela, Kipeto and Isinya.
The Kenya Wildlife Service on its part has provided funding for the installation of 25 bomas in phase I of the installation of Lion Lights in the Athi Kaputiei dispersal area. The Wildlife Foundation team together with the Nairobi National Park Community Warden have been out in the field the past 2 weeks to witness and participate in the installation of these systems as well as get to interact with the community members.