They may not make it to Brazil for the World Cup, but these budding warriors are taking to the (dusty) soccer pitch in order to boost conservation efforts in Melako, Kenya.
They are part of Zoos Victoria’s Kicking Goals for Wildlife program which has engaged teachers, government officials and local warriors to ramp up efforts to protect wildlife in Melako including the critically endangered Grevy’s Zebra. Wildlife in Melako has come under increasing threat from hunting and habitat loss and the Kicking Goals for Wildlife program aims to improve community attitudes towards wildlife conservation.
A delegation from Zoos Victoria is currently in Melako working with locals to roll out Kicking Goals for Wildlife. The program engages warriors and students between the ages of 15-25 who are often unaware of the potential damage their arbitrary hunting practices cause local wildlife.
“This program offers local warriors and students such a fantastic opportunity to get out there and play soccer while learning about wildlife conservation,” Zoos Victoria Conservation Officer, Brooke Squires said .
“Using sport as a wildlife conservation tool is a new concept and Zoos Victoria is the first zoo organisation to trial this approach. We have divided the young men into 6 teams and each team has its own local mascot, these include the endangered Grevy Zebra, the Giraffe, the Oryx , Francolins, Guineafowl and even the DikDik.
“It’s remarkable to see the transformation that has already taken place amongst these young men, many of who were previously contributing towards the threats to local wildlife. Our aim is to have participants be able to walk away from the program thinking that wildlife is a valuable and important part of their community.”
Since the program begun, over 400 school students and 120 warriors have been surveyed to gauge their attitudes towards wildlife and over 18 scouts have been trained to monitor local wildlife. The results have been used to form a baseline understanding of community attitudes towards local wildlife.
The program continues Zoos Victoria’s ongoing partnership with the Melako Community Conservatory. More information about the partnership can be found here.