Soccer, Oryx, Warriors? It might seem like an unusual combination but this is how Zoos Victoria is saving wildlife with our partner in Northern Kenya, Melako Community Conservancy.
Wildlife in Melako has come under increasing threat from hunting and habitat loss and Kicking Goals for Wildlife aims to improve community attitudes towards wildlife conservation by introducing a conservation-based soccer league.
In Rendille culture, every man within the Melako Community Conservancy between the ages of 15-25 must go through an initiation process to become a warrior; an important cultural role within the community and significant coming of age tradition before creating a family of their own.
Over time the warrior role within the conservancy has changed, leaving them with idle time and powerful weapons, resulting in the hunting and harming of local and often endangered wildlife.
Kicking Goals for Wildlife hopes to provide an alternative behaviour that is fun, engaging, provides opportunities to prove leadership skills as well as promotes peace building and an increased awareness for the importance of protecting local wildlife.
Zoos Victoria is also playing a key role in the recovery of the endangered oryx and the soccer program is just one of many ways in which we are doing this.
Soccer is a little different in Melako. Not only do the warriors play on river beds with branches or elephant dung for goal posts but many warriors don’t actually know the rules of the game!
1,000 powerful warriors will be learning the rules through warrior theatre before hitting the field as part of five teams made up of the five ambassador species, helping to increase the value for those species: Giraffe, Zebra, Oryx, Dik-Dik and Gerenuk.
We’re very proud of their warriors for joining the program with such enthusiasm and for being such great custodians of their wildlife and we would like to thank them for all their efforts.
Ache Oleng! (Rendille for thank you)
More Soccer = Less Idle Time = More Wildlife