Maasai Olympics - the Hunt for Medals, not Lions
Recently, Maasai men and women gathered in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro for the third annual Maasai Olympics. Among the hosts was two-time Olympic 800m gold medalist, David Rudisha, himself a Maasai. The sporting event featured bouts of athletic endurance, skill, and strategy all with a clear goal in mind...the conservation of lions.
For centuries the Maasai have practiced a traditional rite of passage to manhood, hunting and killing lions. However, the lion population is now vulnerable and the cultural tradition is no longer sustainable.
As a result, the Menye Layiok, or "cultural fathers," in partnership with Big Life Foundation have created a history-changing alternative to lion killing: an organized Maasai sports competition based upon traditional warrior skills. Through the competition participants vie for recognition, express bravery, impress mates and identify leaders, while sparing the vulnerable lion population.
The Warrior Conservation Project is part of a larger initiative to educate and inspire the Maasai to adopt sustainable practices to preserve their traditional culture and eco-system.
There will always be lions?, a film produced exclusively for this project, is central to the education program and has received a Merit Award for "Conservation Ethics and Cultural Message" from the International Wildlife Film Festival IWFF.
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