12 17/12/2014

Chester Zoo sponsors the hunt for medals, not lions, at the Maasai Olympics

Chester Zoo is to be the main sponsor of the 2014 Maasai Olympics – an event which is using sport to replace wildlife hunting as traditional warrior activity in East Africa.

Maasai olympics

The games, which will be held on December 13 at the Kimana Wildlife Sanctury at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya, are bringing a fresh approach to animal conservation.

Killing animals to compete for recognition, display ‘manliness’, impress women and identify leaders has long been embedded in Maasai culture. However, conservationists fear it has reached a tipping point and has pushed certain species towards the brink of extinction.

Conservation experts, alongside spiritual leaders, village elders and leading Maasai figures have therefore worked together to develop the Maasai Olympics. Its aim is to stop the killing of animals and protect wildlife by showing Maasai warriors that there are other ways to display bravery.

The individual athletic events – based on traditional warrior skills – will include the 200m sprint, 800m sprint, spear throwing, high jump and a 5k run. 

And, for the very first time, women will also compete in two events – the 100 and 1500 meters.

Warriors at Maasai olympics

Chester Zoo’s education programmes manager, Dr Maggie Esson, will be travelling to the event to present the Chester Zoo Conservation Prize in recognition of the Maasai village (known as a manyatta) that has done the most for wildlife conservation. 

Dr Esson said:

The Maasai Olympics has conservation at its heart. But it is a sports competition just like any other with winners and losers, close finishes and memorable victories.

The road to protecting species is never a straight one but we’re delighted to be a part of such a ground-breaking event.

Medals, trophies and prizes, including cash and a premier breeding bull for the winning manyatta, will be given to the winners.

Kenyan Olympic gold medalist and world 800-metre record holder David Rudisha, a former Maasai warrior, will be the patron of the games.