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Kenya‘s wildlife is among the richest and most diverse on the African continent. Every year the country’s national parks attract millions of domestic and international tourists. Kenya is not only home to the Big Five of Africa, including lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants and black rhinos, but also thousands of other species.
The country is also the site of the world’s largest wildlife migration with millions of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebras and gazelles traveling from Tanzania to the Masai Mara National Reserve in southern Kenya.
Unfortunately, however, biodiversity loss is one of the greatest threats to Kenya. Over the past century, Kenya’s population has grown significantly, from just 2.9 million in 1928 to around 49 million today. Due to limited space, people who depend on agriculture often have no choice but to hide wildlife habitat in fields.
In addition, hunting wild animals is part of their culture for some tribes. They don’t see this tradition as harmful, but in reality it poses a threat to wildlife.
The need to conserve wildlife is therefore clear. There are many ways to protect the environment and, what may surprise some, sport is one of them.
Sport helps raise funds for nature conservation projects
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Sport brings people from different countries and cultures together. Sporting events create a sense of community and allow people to connect, even though they usually live on opposite sides of the world.
Sport can also serve to raise awareness of important issues such as species protection and to inspire people to make a contribution to environmental protection.
Sports tourism and nature conservation meet, for example, at the annual Lewa Safari Marathon. During the event, participants walk through a nature reserve and have the opportunity to admire Kenya’s iconic wildlife. Over the years, the marathon has raised nearly $ 8 million for conservation projects across the country.
The Lewa Safari Marathon is perhaps the most famous event of its kind, but not the only one.
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the Rhino cargo is an annual 4 × 4 off-road competition that collects donations to protect the Kenyan mountain range’s ecosystems. the Last male standing rhinoceros cup is a three-day cricket tournament aimed at raising money for the protection of the rhino in Kenya.
Finally, the Maralal International Camel Derby is a camel race that attracts local and international participants and spectators, including farmers, ranchers, and regular tourists. The aim of the event is to educate pastoral communities on how they can use camels to combat environmental degradation.
These are just a few examples, but sport has really become an important part of not only the tourism industry but also conservation efforts in Kenya.
Sport motivates the locals to conserve Kenyan wildlife
In addition to encouraging international visitors to contribute to conservation efforts, sport is used to educate local communities about the importance of protecting Kenya’s nature.
The longstanding Maasai tradition includes the “lion hunt as a sign of masculinity, bravery and prestige”, the Big Life Foundation explained. The ritual is part of the coming of age ceremony and an important part of Maasai culture.
Unfortunately, this means that the numbers of this endangered species are falling. To raise awareness of the need to protect lions, the Maasai Olympics were introduced.
During the biennial event, Maasai warriors compete in six sports, namely junior and javelin throwing, high jump and 200, 800 and 5,000 m races. If the contestants win, they will receive medals, cash benefits, and recognitions.
The event encourages traditional Kenyan communities to move away from killing animals and instead get involved in conservation. Sport offers them an alternative to the harmful killing of lions and opens their eyes to the benefits of nature conservation.
Since the initiative started, the lion kill rate has dropped to almost zero ‘, called David Rudisha, Kenyan Olympic Champion.
Preserving Kenya’s wildlife is vital
There are 24 national parks in Kenya, with the Masai Mara being the most visited. The reserve is so spectacular that its ecosystem has been classified as one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Africa”.
Even world-class athletes are not indifferent to Kenya’s breathtaking scenery and wildlife. In June, Kenya hosted the World Rally Championship. During the event, the riders passed the Oserengoni Wildlife Conservancy, where they could admire giraffes, zebras, buffalo and lions during and after the race.
Many of the rally drivers decided to explore other national parks in Kenya as well expressed their astonishment at how beautiful the country’s nature is.
Taking part in a safari is an unforgettable experience and a highlight of most Kenya trips. Preserving Kenyan wildlife is vital to ensure that future generations can enjoy the spectacular views of animals in their natural habitat.
About the author:
Katarzyna Rybarczyk is the political correspondent for Immigration Advisory Service, a UK based immigration law firm but operating global. She recently volunteered for a month in vulnerable communities in Kenya.