Sports events have brought people from different cultures and regions together. From the Olympics to the World Cup to Formula One. There is no doubt that during these moments, we get to experience friendships globally. Even though competition is involved, it all is, in a way, a form inviting people to be one. Whether you come from a developing country or are in a first world country, we have connected through sports.
Sports can thus be used for effective communication. In the conservation world, sports can be a form of promoting behaviour change and aid in raising awareness about species under threat, pollution, deforestation and even climate change among other environmental issues.
In recent years, Kenya has seen the inclusion of sports to aid conservation efforts whether it is fundraising for a cause or raising awareness about a wild life species or an environmental issue. These sports events have even attracted tourists from across the globe.
I had the opportunity to attend one such sports event which brought to light the importance of integrating sports for conservation. Let’s go through some major conservation sports events that happen in Kenya through out the year.
The football tournament organized by Action for Cheetahs in Kenya hosts schools and community teams within Makueni County. The competition involves both male and female teams which compete for the top prizes. Not only does the competition focus on sports but it also focuses on educating the teams in attendance on facts about cheetahs and the status of the species in Kenya and Africa. The Football tournament is held to commemorate International Cheetah Day which is held on 4th December thus providing a befitting platform to raise awareness on the Duma (Swahili for cheetah).
Lewa Marathon is held annually at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to raise funds for the community development program and wildlife conservation efforts at Lewa. The marathon is a 42.195-kilometre endurance race in the wild plains at Lewa with no boundaries separating the runners from wildlife. The marathon is held in June.
Maasai Olympics is a biennial event for Maasai warriors to compete against other warriors, in Kenya’s Amboseli ecosystem, as an alternative to lion hunting. Every two years Maasai men and women gather in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro for the Maasai Olympics; a unique combination of conservation and sport. The event features bouts of athletic endurance, skill, and strategy all with a clear goal in mind – the conservation of lions. The event is hosted with support from The Big Life Foundation.
The Last Male Standing Rhino Cup is a three day – cricket tournament held at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This sporting event is geared towards raising awareness on the plight of the rhino in Africa and the need to protect the species from becoming extinct. The main purpose is to raise funds to continue the ongoing, rhino conservation efforts on Ol Pejeta – which is now home to 152 black and white rhinos.
The Rhino Charge is an annual off-road 4×4 competition held in Kenya. Entrants are required to visit 13 points (guard posts) scattered over approximately 100 km² of rough terrain within a 10 hour period. The winner is the competitor who visits the most guard posts in the shortest distance (GPS measured). The event, organized by Rhino Ark, is geared towards raising funds to support the conservation and protection of Kenya’s mountain range ecosystems.
“Lungs for Kenya” is a campaign launched by Nature Kenya. The golf tournament’s aim is to raise funds towards forest restoration and also assisting communities living adjacent to water towers to establish, manage and sustain communal tree nurseries as part of the forest’s rehabilitation program under the campaign. Each year focuses on a different forest.
Cycle with the Rhino is an annual biking event held at Lake Nakuru National Park. The event is aimed at raising funds to aid in the conservation of the endangered rhino species.
The Eburu Forest Challenge is hosted by the Great Rift Valley Lodge. The event is geared towards raising funds towards the reforestation of Mau Eburu Forest. The Mountain bike event is open to Professionals (70 km), Amateurs (40 Kms), Children (17 km) and Black Mambas (40 km). The Run Event is categorized in Half-marathon (21 km) and Fun run (10 km).
The Elgon 4*4 challenge is an event that was created to create sensitization of the plight of our water tours in Kenya through sports for conservation. The event is a four-wheel drive competition that takes place at Chepkitale region of Mount Elgon, Bungoma County annually. It involves extreme Off-Road Sport that takes the participants on a jungle adventure with all its hardship, endurance and extremities.
Our water towers and oxygen providers are under threat. There is the need to sensitize Kenyans on the importance of our forests. The East African Wild Life Society hosts a gruelling yet adventurous forest challenge which is designed to allow the participants to learn, experience and participate in forest conservation. Annually held at the Kereita Forest, the Forest Challenge invites participants to connect with nature and at the same time emerge as a forest conservation champion and ambassador.
“Environmental communication has become a part of everyday communication. Communication is not simply a social phenomenon to be observed. It is an important instrument of environmental policy, which however should not only be seen as an element of government policy. In fact, it can be understood as the sum of all efforts undertaken to develop society ecologically and sustainably.” – Sports and Nature Conservation