Yao Ming plays for ellies and rhinos
In August 2012, Yao spent 12 days on a fact-finding mission in Kenya and South Africa filming a documentary in partnership with NHNZ . Yao met wild elephants before encountering the bodies of five poached elephants in Kenya and a poached rhino in South Africa. He also visited local schools where the education is funded through wildlife tourism revenue, and conservationists and government officials working to protect elephants and rhinos. Footage and stills from his trip were released together with a series of public service announcements informing consumers, “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
Poaching for ivory kills more than 25,000 elephants annually and has reached levels only seen before the 1989 international trade ban. In 2012, 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone.
A survey conducted in November 2012 in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou by the Chinese research company, HorizonKey, found that more than half of the nearly 1,000 participants (over 50%) do not think elephant poaching is common while 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.”
Yao stated, ”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.”