C4 Global Communications
December 18, 2012

C4 Global Communications
Santa Monica, CA
First Maasai Olympics in Kenya creates new tradition: The track and field competition uses warriors’ lion hunting skills for athletics

“The Maasai Olympics is not just a sporting activity and event. It is a once–in–a–lifetime opportunity given by the Maasai elders to save this ecosystem,” Dereck Joubert, CEO of Great Plains Conservation, said.

In Kenya’s seven–million–acre Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem, the first Maasai Olympic Games will be held on December 22nd beneath Mt. Kilimanjaro. Maasailand, 1.6 million acres of that region, is home to 80,000 Maasai people. Great Plains Conservation, a sponsor of the Games, owns ol Donyo Lodge and Ride Kenya Horse Safaris in the Maasailand conservation area.

“The cultural fathers have a shared goal to secure a new way of life for the Maasai through a vision of conservation of land with wildlife on it. This year when the warriors gather with their spears, it will be for the Olympics and not to surround a lion,” Joubert said, the wildlife filmmaker who produced “The Last Lions” feature with Beverly Joubert in 2011.

Maasai warriors in lion mane headdresses, which identifies them as having killed a lion using only spears and knives, at Eunoto ceremony, their passage from warriorhood to elderhood, Kenya. Photo by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, “African Ceremonies” 1999.

Incredibly, 4,000 young warriors have banded together to take lion killing out of their culture and replace it with competitive sports. The track and field finalists will compete in front of David Rudisha, the Maasai’s 800–meter 2012 World and Olympic Champion. Six regional events have brought warriors from competing villages together for two months of hard trials.

The Maasai Olympics are co–hosted by the Maasailand Preservation Trust (MPT) and the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. MPT provides Maasai people with financial aid, education and healthcare in exchange for their assistance in conserving both wildlife and habitat in the region. Sponsors of the Games are: Big Life Foundation, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, African Wildlife Foundation, the Chester Zoo and Joy Smith’s North Star Foundation.

Tom Hill, an organizer of the Games and board member of MPT, said: “The Maasai Olympics of the Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem is the first time I am aware of that the Maasai leadership of an entire region, more than 80,000 individuals, has proposed to take lion killing out of their warrior culture after 500 years, making it an actual taboo and providing athletics instead as an alternative warrior activity. Even the supreme spiritual leader of the Maasai nation wholly endorses this shift in cultural practice — as one elder said to me — from lion hunting to trophy hunting. We at MPT are honored to do our part in supporting this visionary idea.”

Maasai warriors sprint during a qualifying event for the Maasai Olympics.

The Maasai Olympics consists of two major activities: education and sports competitions. Four teams of athletes taken from rival warrior manyattas (villages) in the Amboseli–Tsavo ecosystem will compete: Kuku, Mbirikani, Ogulului and Rombo. (Ol Donyo Lodge operates in the Mbirikani region.) The sports are based on traditional warrior skills, and consists of five track–and–field events: 200–meter sprint; 5,000–meter run; spear throwing (javelin); shot put (a rungu club); and high jump.

Great Plains Conservation, through ol Donyo Lodge, is a key partner in the conservation work in Amboseli–Tsavo. A percentage of all guest rates is contributed to the Maasailand Preservation Trust to manage various conservation and community projects in the region.

An essential component of the relationship between the lions, the Maasai, MPT and Great Plains is a project called the Predator Compensation Fund (PCF). The fund is designed to compensate communities for any livestock losses due to predators.

Spear throwing (javelin) at the Maasai Olympic trials.

The success of PCF has changed the entire Maasai population’s attitude toward living with wildlife. The community is now taking lion conservation one step further towards eliminating lion killing from the Maasai culture.

Big Cats Initiative       Great Plains Conservation      Maasai Olympics

Maasai Olympic Games Press Details

Kenya Contact for VIP Press Passes: Kari Mutu, Great Plains Conservation
kari@greatplainsconservation.com | maasaiolympics@yahoo.com
Mobile: +254 (0)786 425356 | Office: +254 202 180181

US Press Contact: Caroline Graham, C4 Global Communications
caroline@c4global.com | 310.899.2727 | www.c4global.com