Monday, November 27, 2006

Tanzania: Maasai-lion rivalry revived?

Daily News; Friday,November 24, 2006 @12:54

The killing of six lions by Morani warriors at Mswakini village, Monduli District in Arusha Region recently, could signal revival of an old tradition to prove manhood.

The animals, killed last Monday, had strayed to the village from nearby Tarangire National Park.

Lion researcher with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Centre (TAWIRI), Dennis Ikanda said here yesterday that ritualistic lion hunting as proof of bravery and achievement was an old tradition and practice among young Maasai.

"Lion hunting is an ancient practice that played an important role in the Maasai culture. The practice is different from trophy hunting; it is symbolically a rite of passage and ritual," he explained. All the lions were speared to death.

Whether retributive or ritual, lion hunting was until recently, viewed largely by Maasai society as bravery and achievement. However, the practice has declined considerably.

Elders allegedly encouraged warriors to hunt from a pride of ten or more lions in order not to decimate the resident lion population. The practice is known in Maasai as 'Olamayio' or 'ala-mayo'. It was still a great source of pride among warriors.

The practice allows warriors to show off their beast fighting prowess while gaining ''blessings' for bravery within their age set. At the end of each age-set, usually after ten years, the warriors tally the number of lions killed and compare them to the 'achievement' of their predecessors.

Maasais do not eat game meat and hunt lions purely for trophies, usually the mane, tail, claws, right palm and ears. The mane is beautifully beaded by women and given back to the brave hunter. It is usually worn over the head, only during special occasions.

The mane also helps hunters from distant communities to identify the toughest warrior in a group. The palm and the ears are given to warriors who led the hunting.

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