In Maasai culture, young men who are entering warriorhood traditionally hunted lions to show their physical prowess and vitality and to attract females. Combined with habitat loss and retaliatory killings of lions, however, this Maasai tradition has inadvertently led to a rapidly diminishing lion population.
On December 22, 2012, African Wildlife Foundation supported local partners—with funding and logistical support—in staging the first-ever Maasai Olympics in Southern Kenya. Twenty-five Maasai athletes from the four warrior villages of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem (representing nearly 80,000 Maasai people) participated in a day of competitive sports. The five events—which included such competitions as javelin throw, running events, and high jumping—were based on the basic Maasai warrior skills of hunting, running, herding, and even dancing.
Girls’ events were also included to bring the conservation of lions across genders—especially as lion killing had historically been a way for Maasai warriors to attract members of the opposite sex.
Because the original idea for the Maasai Olympics came from the menya layiok, or the cultural fathers of the warriors, who teach them what is expected of Maasai warriors, the event ended up being a successful alternative to lion hunting.
Become a member
Join African Wildlife Foundation as a member for just $25. Your partnership is vital to our mission to protect Africa’s most precious - and imperiled - creatures.
Spread the word