Every year the Lion Guardians Games is a competitive affair, full of excitement, camaraderie and bonding. The 2014 Games, which were held at our Amboseli headquarters from 17th – 20th July 2014, were no exception. In fact, we think this year’s games were the most successful we have held so far.
This was the biggest Games to date, bringing together approximately 70 Lion Guardians from the greater Amboseli ecosystem and from two sites in Tanzania (Ruaha and Tarangire), as well as several community representatives from Ngorongoro/Serengeti ecosystems. We had tremendous representation from community leaders, conservation partners, Government representatives from Kenya and Tanzania, not to mention the multitude of enthusiastic community members and clients from the nearby Amboseli -Porini camp who turned up to cheer the Guardians on. Even a big lone bull elephant strolled passed us a as we were closing the award ceremony, conferring a final blessing on the day.
Beyond the amazing level of participation, every single event was highly competitive, from whistling to spear throwing and the 100 meter sprint, each participant gave it his all. It was nearly impossible to predict the winner of any event as the six teams went full throttle from the word go. In fact, for the first time in the history of the games, we had run-offs to decide the winners after several Guardians tied. Even more amazing, no single team emerged as an overall winner as every one of the teams won an event, something that has never happened in the history of the Games. This year, we also introduced a team event, a relay race complete with homemade batons, to test the ability of Guardians to work as a team. We were delighted at the collaboration and efficiency of all the teams; the four person race was one of the highlights of this year’s Games.
- Whistling: Oshimu from Mbirikani Group Ranch in Kenya
- 100m Sprint: Daream from Ruaha in Tanzania
- Relay Race: Team Mbuni (Ostrich) won the relay race after outshining team Tembo (Elephant) in the final.
- Stick throwing: Pascal from Ruaha in Tanzania
- Spear throwing accuracy: Olubi from Mbirikani Group Ranch in Kenya defeating Kutata Mutenkere from Eselenkei Group Ranch in Kenya by the smallest of margins in a sudden death contest.
- Most Hospitable: Orumoi from Olgulului Group Ranch in Kenya won an award after being voted the most hospitable and generous Guardian of the Games.
The Games are also the time when we give out the annual excellence awards for individuals in various categories. This year’s winners:
- Best new Lion Guardian of the year: Lemomo from Tarangire in Tanzania
- Most Reliable: Kapande Narok from Mbirikani Group Ranch
- Beyond the Call of Duty: Pascal from Ruaha in Tanzania
- Best Role Model: Kamunu Saitoti from Eselenkei Group Ranch
- Greatest Community Impact: Olubi Lairumbe from Mbirikani Group Ranch
- Greatest Program Impact: Lenkai Nkiinti from Eselenkei Group Ranch
The day before the Games, our directors had the chance to interact with the Amboseli Guardians and provide them with feedback on the year and their lions. The feedback session was led by Dr. Stephanie Dolrenry, and the Guardians took advantage of the opportunity to not only inquire about scientific findings but also get a full dose of lion ‘gossip’, with questions ranging from gestation periods to mating habits. That evening, after the Guardians finished dinner, the dancing and singing began. The atmosphere was electric as their chants echoed through the air and their dancing shook the Amboseli ecosystem.
The last day of the Games was set aside for refresher training sessions for all the Guardians at our Training Center. The Guardians rotated from one training session to the next throughout the day, attending trainings covering topics from lion monitoring to communications.
The Games were graced by the Kenya Wildlife Service Assistant Director Southern region, Julius Cheptei who gave the key note address, Judith Zainabu (Senior Warden Amboseli), Dr. Noah Sitati and Philip Lenayasa from African Wildlife Foundation, Maingu Killel from Serengeti Community Outreach Officer, TANAPA and several Group Ranch leaders.
At the end of the three days, the Guardians left feeling rejuvenated and even more excited to return to the field. Now we all look forward to next year when we will meet and compete again!
We would again like to take this moment to thank all those who made our 5th Annual Lion Guardians Games a reality and a success:
- Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps for all the logistical support and use of the airstrip to hold the games
- Eco-Sys Action (Boopy – Kids’ best friend) for sponsoring the games again this year
- Our partners from Tanzania – Ruaha Carnivore Project, Tarangire Lion Project and the Serengeti Lion Project.
- Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) & Kenya Wildlife Service for gracing the occasion
- Frankfurt Zoological Society – Tanzania for providing transportation to the entire team from Tanzania to join us in Kenya.