Chinese celebrity and former NBA player, Yao Ming, recently launched a major public awareness campaign linking consumption of ivory and rhino horn in China with the deaths of thousands of rhinos and elephants in Africa. The campaign was launched in partnership with WildAid, Save the Elephants, African Wildlife Foundation, and the Yao Ming Foundation.
Widespread poaching and illegal trade in rhino horns and ivory is threatening efforts to conserve Africa’s dwindling rhino and elephant populations which now face a real threat of extinction. Poaching and illegal trade in horns and ivory is fueled by demand from countries like China and Vietnam. However, results from a survey carried out in China revealed that many Chinese people are very supportive of wildlife protection and are not aware of poaching for ivory and horn.
The attitudinal ivory and rhino horn surveys highlight the importance of Yao’s involvement in this campaign and the urgent need for him to continue to positively influence his fellow countrymen.
According to WildAid, 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. These are precipitous increases from just a few years ago and, if not stemmed, could lead to the extinction of African rhinos and elephants in our lifetime.
Kenyan researcher David Daballen, of Save the Elephants, stated, “Because of the demand for ivory, poaching has erupted all over Africa leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year. These elephants are not only a part of our world, they are a part of our heritage and our family. We need the Chinese peoples’ help to save our elephants by saying no to ivory.”
Yao Ming spent time in Kenya and South Africa on a fact-finding mission and filmed a documentary which will be aired in partnership with NHNZ later this year (watch the trailer below). 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.”
Yao says, ”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.”