Young Kenyan men compete for bragging rights in the 'Maasai Olympics', focused on ending the tradition of killing lions to be considered 'warriors'. Mana Rabiee reports.
With Kenya's Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, these Maasai men get ready to become 'warriors'. Since ancient times, young Maasai on the cusp on manhood have competed for warrior status -- and the hearts of girls -- by killing a lion. But that ritual is changing. These men - 16 to 25 -- are competing instead for bragging rights at the 'Maasai Olympics'. The idea formed in 2008 ... by a conservationist and a group of concerned Maasai elders who wanted to bring lions back from the brink of near extinction. (SOUNDBITE) (Swahili) MAASAI OLYMPICS ATHLETE, JOHN KETEKO, SAYING: "Back in the day, people used to kill lions because people did not know the animal's benefits. Now we understand their importance, that's why we don't kill them. We co-exist because we see they have many advantages." Embracing this new perspective on manly-prowess hasn't been too difficult. Most Maasai wear Western cloths and even those in traditional robes have cell phones. Many 'warriors' even have Facebook profiles. Young Maasai entering the job market know they will need tourism jobs, like lion safaris. All the more reason, they say, to walk away from an ancient tradition and 'leap' into more modern times.