At 7ft, 6 in tall, Yao Ming is an intimidating figure, the tallest player in the NBA during his former career with the Houston Rockets. But this gentle giant is spending his time nowadays educating people on the crisis of elephant and rhino poaching.
As a goodwill ambassador to WildAid, he recently teamed up with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). They are launching a major public awareness campaign targeting the consumption of rhino horn and ivory, in China. With public service announcements stating “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
According to WildAid.Org, in 2012 a Chinese research company did a study on elephant poaching finding that:
- More than half of the nearly 1,000 participants (over 50%) do not think elephant poaching is common;
- 34%, or one in three respondents, believe ivory is obtained from natural elephant mortality;
- Only 33% of all participants believe elephants are poached for their tusks; and
- 94% of residents agree the “Chinese government should impose a ban on the ivory trade
A similar survey was also done on rhino poaching:
- 66% of all participants, that is two out of every three respondents, are not aware that rhino horn comes from poached rhinos;
- Nearly 50% believed rhino horn can be legally purchased from official stores; and
- 95% of residents agree the “Chinese government should take stricter action to prevent use of rhino horns.”
Being an animal lover and inspired by Jackie Chan, the Chinese basketball sensation has made raising awareness a top priority. He is a goodwill ambassador and a promising connection between the poaching crisis of Africa and the demand of the Chinese people.
According to Ming, “The most effective thing you can do to counter this kind of situation is raise people’s awareness. Eliminate the demand for rhino horn and ivory right at the source. That’s what I want to do. It might take some time, sure, but I’m really hoping that gradually we can start to see an improvement.”
“Poaching threatens livelihoods, education, and development in parts of Africa due to the insecurity it brings and loss of tourism revenue. No one who sees the results firsthand, as I did, would buy ivory or rhino horn. I believe when people in China know what’s happening they will do the right thing and say no to these products.”
Ming’s previous campaign to educate the Chinese on the demand of shark fins, is credited with a reduction of 50 – 70% in consumption of shark fin in China in 2012. We can only hope his current drive to eliminate the demand for horn and tusk is just as effective.