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Maasai Olympics: Chester Zoo backs event to help save lions

Maasai warriors Image copyright Chester Zoo
Image caption The Maasai tribe traditionally hunts lions to compete for recognition and impress women

Chester Zoo has helped organise a special sports tournament designed to discourage an African tribe's culture of killing lions.

Maasai tribesmen in Kenya traditionally hunt the big cats to compete for recognition, impress women and identify leaders.

But conservationists fear the killings are contributing to an alarming decline in lion numbers.

It is hoped the 2014 Maasai Olympics could help foster a culture-change.

Chester Zoo is the main sponsor for Saturday's event, which features sports based on traditional warrior skills such as sprinting, spear throwing, and high jump.

The event, founded in 2012, is being held at Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the Kenya-Tanzania border.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Maasai tribe runs safari tours to spot lions

Medals, trophies and prizes will be won, while the winning village - or manyatta - will be given cash and a premier breeding bull.

Dr Maggie Esson, the zoo's education programmes manager, 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."

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

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