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The Maasai Olympics - hunting for medals instead of lions

A new tradition has begun in Kenya...



European Sales & Marketing Manager at Great Plains Conservation
Published on

20 Sep 2018

Read time

5 minutes

Runners At The Maasai Olympics

For centuries young Masai men entering warrior-hood would hunt lions as a rite of passage to demonstrate their strength and bravery, and to attract females. However, Kenya’s lion population is in rapid decline with fewer than 2,000 individuals left. If trends continue they face extinction in the next two decades.

Maasai Olympics In Kenya
Arriving at the Olympics
Preparing For The Races
Preparing for the games
Warriors At The Maasai Olympics
Warriors at the Olympics

Maasai Elders (menya layiok) realised that this traditional practice was no longer viable and came up with a history-changing solution to divert the attention of young warriors away from lion killing; an organised Maasai sports competition based upon traditional warrior skills.

Maasai Runners
Maasai runners

The sports programme includes six events:

  1. 200m sprint
  2. 800m sprint
  3. 5K run
  4. Spear throwing
  5. Rungu throwing (Maasai herder’s wooden weapon)
  6. High jumping (vertical jump, Maasai warrior-style),

The high jump is the climatic event that is likely to determine the winning team.

Racing At The Maasai Olympics
Race time
The Winners Podium At The Maasai Olympics
The winners podium

There are three levels of competition (local, regional, and ecosystem-wide) that culminate in the Maasai Olympics, which will be held for the fourth time at the end of 2018 in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Guests of Great Plains Conservation have the opportunity to stay at ol Donyo Lodge and attend the events, which will be held in December 2018.

Ol Donyo Lodge Kenya Aerial View
Aerial view of Ol Donyo Lodge
Sleeping Under The Stars At Ol Donyo Lodge
Sleeping under the stars
Swimming Pool View At Ol Donyo Lodge
Ol Donyo pool

The event continues to be a huge success. In fact, a 2016 survey found that 87-93% of Maasai Warriors surveyed felt that the Maasai Olympics had made them less interested in killing a lion. The full glory of this event and its significance is captured in Tribe vs. Pride, an award-winning film by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Great Plains Conservation founders.

If you would like to support the Maasai people and their innovative solution to conservation, you can donate here (by selecting "Community Projects: Maasai Olympics".

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