Jul 1, 2019

The Hunt for Medals, not Lions.

A Lion and his territory in East Africa.
A Lion and his territory in East Africa.

Regardless of where you were born -  Africa, the US, or beyond - most all cultures have traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next. Whether it’s Great Grandma’s special recipe made only at a certain time of the year, or certain celebrations that bring everyone together, we can all relate in one way or another. Most traditions are positive and joyous. However, some can become negative, and when they do, they are usually notoriously hard to change.

So, when a major shift away from tradition comes from within a community to benefit the greater good, it’s incredibly inspiring. The Maasai Olympics is a shining example of a culture adapting a longstanding tradition to benefit themselves, their home, and the global conservation community.

At the behest of the Menye Layiok, or Maasai “cultural fathers,” Big Life Foundation established the Maasai Olympics - an organized sporting event - in 2012 based on traditional Maasai warrior skills to replace the long-held tradition of hunting lions as a mark of bravery and prestige.

As Big Life previously reported, the 4th Maasai Olympics Finals were held in December 2018. Success was marked not only by another exciting sporting event, but also by local lion population growth, with some of the largest prides of lions recorded in years.

To help document this conservation success, Big Life recently partnered with Black Bean Productions to create a short video that helps transport you to East Africa to experience the Maasai Olympics for yourself. Please be sure to watch the video. We hope you’ll take pride in knowing that you directly helped make this progress possible.

The momentum from 2018 continues into 2019, and through the first quarter of the year, Big Life is proud to report that zero lions have been killed in violation of Big Life’s predator protection work.

And in other exciting news, more support is coming for the lions of Africa as the remake of Disney’s Lion King is coming to theaters on July 19th.  Since the original Lion King was released 25 years ago, the lion population has fallen by half. Yet through the Massai Olympics, Big Life’s Predator Compensation Fund, conservation education, and collaboration with local communities and partners, Big Life’s area of operation is one of the few areas in all of Africa where the lion population is growing, not declining.

“When we protect lions, we help protect the entire circle of life.” – Danny Glover (Simba)

We’d like to thank all of YOU who’ve supported this life-changing conservation program. You should feel proud to have contributed to a conservation initiative that provides tangible, long-lasting, and replicable successes.   

We will be ending this project on GlobalGiving’s platform, but our efforts will not. Truly, thank you for helping create a world where conservation supports the people and people support conservation. 

Lion cubs in Big Life's Area of Operation.
Lion cubs in Big Life's Area of Operation.
Maasai Olympics: The Hunt for Medals, Not Lions
Maasai Olympics: The Hunt for Medals, Not Lions
Maasai Olympics: The Hunt for Medals, Not Lions
Maasai Olympics: The Hunt for Medals, Not Lions


Apr 4, 2019


It’s not often that zero is the highest mark of achievement.

In this case, zero is the magic number.  

In 2018, for the second year in a row, zero lions were killed in violation of Big Life Foundation’s Predator Compensation Fund (PCF). This number represents an extraordinary accomplishment in an ecosystem where humans and wildlife are in daily competition for limited resources, with less and less space to share.

In addition to the PCF, which helps to reduce the motivation for retaliatory killing in response to livestock depredation, this success can also be attributed to several factors such as Big Life’s Maasai Olympics, which has helped replace the long-held Maasai tradition of lion hunting, as well as Big Life’s close coordination with the local community and ecosystem partners like Lion Guardians and Kenya Wildlife Service.

The reward for this hard work? Lions, like the one pictured above, peacefully relaxing on the open plains. A sight that was virtually nonexistent not so long ago.  

As the lion population in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem continues to grow, Big Life is dedicated to ensuring our predator protection work continues to earn high marks. And in doing so, our hope is that lions are forever a part of East Africa’s treasured landscape.

Thank you to our donors and partners for being part of the solution to save these iconic cats.  

Jan 7, 2019


Recently, on December 15th, Maasai warriors from across the Greater Amboseli ecosystem came together to compete in a day-long sports competition: the 4th Maasai Olympics Finals.

The games represent a history-changing shift from killing to conservation. At the behest of the the Menye Layiok, or Maasai “cultural fathers,” Big Life Foundation established this organized sporting event in 2012 based on traditional Maasai warrior skills to replace the long-held tradition of hunting lions as a mark of manhood, bravery, and prestige.

In an ecosystem where the local lion population was once virtually extinct, to have Maasai warriors competing for medals instead of hunting lions is nothing short of revolutionary.

As with past Maasai Olympics Finals, the day was filled with excitement, tension, and joyous energy:

The high amount of rainfall received in the lead up, although incredibly welcome, meant that the event itself was uncertain. Team selections this past spring had to be delayed due to rain, but would the season end the same way? In the end, the weather cooperated right until the finish of the last event, when everyone had to dash for cover to escape getting drenched.

By then however, the four teams had established their spot on the score board. Athletes from Mbirikani, Eselengei, Kuku, and Rombo Group Ranches, both men and women, brought their best for a series of competitions that were all hotly contested.

The final event, the high jump, is always the highlight of the day, and this year was no exception. Heading into it, the top two teams, Mbirikani and Kuku, were tied for first place. From a standing position, the warriors defied gravity jumping higher and higher, until ultimately the prize went to Mbirikani for an unbelievable height of over 9 feet.

And thus, Mbirikani’s team won the day, taking home the prize bull and top honors for a third time. They had lost to Rombo in 2016 and were elated to take their title back.

Rombo Group Ranch did take home the Chester Zoo Conservation Prize, for a year where no lions were killed on the ranch, and for not retaliating against an elephant that had tragically killed a man earlier in the year.

The games were overseen by the event’s patron: gold medal Olympian, 800m world-record holder, and fellow Maasai, David Rudisha.

There is another winner of these games. The lion population in Big Life’s area of operation continues to grow, with some of the largest prides of lions recorded in years.

Through initiatives like the Maasai Olympics, our hope is that both local communities and lion populations continue to win – now, and far into the future.    

The success of the Maasai Olympics was only possible because of our wonderful partners, sponsors, and friends.

Thank you, as always, for your support to make this life-saving conservation work possible! 

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