Zoos Victoria Launch Kicking Goals for Wildlife

12 June 2014

As World Cup fever sweeps across Brazil more than 9,000 kilometres away in Northern Kenya, young warrior men are about to play their very first match in the Melako Conservation Football League.

With pitches marked out in dusty, dried up river beds and branches or elephant dung for goal posts, this is a very different kind of football league, born out of a unique partnership to save wildlife under threat.

Kicking Goals for Wildlife launches today, on the same day as the opening of the FIFA Soccer World Cup, and is a new community program we've developed in partnership with the Melako Community Conservancy that uses football to address threats to wildlife, including giraffe, Grevy’s Zebra, oryx, DikDik and Gerenuk.

Wildlife in Melako has come under increasing threat from hunting and habitat loss. Community-led interviews and species monitoring reveal that one of those threats is from warriors within the community.

In Rendille culture, all men aged between 15-25 go through an initiation process to become a warrior; an important cultural role within the community. Recently, the warrior role has changed, leaving young men with idle time and powerful weapons, resulting in the hunting and harming of local and often endangered wildlife.

Over the last twelve months Zoos Victoria have worked with these warriors to first identify and then to develop a community football league as a way to provide these young men with something that’s fun and engaging, provides opportunities to prove leadership, promotes peace building and raises awareness about the importance of protecting local wildlife.

Bringing together one thousand powerful warriors, the Melako Conservation Football League is unlike any other. Fixtures will change with the rains, the balls must be indestructible and scores include the team’s contribution to community and wildlife outcomes off the field.

Many warriors have never played football before and will be learning the rules of the game through the community’s very influential warrior theatre groups.

Teams include seven a side and already include Team Giraffe, Team Oryx, Team Dik Dik, Team Zebra and Team Gerenuk.

To follow match details and updates visit www.zoo.org.au/kicking-goals or keep in touch via Twitter @ZoosVictoria