Towering ivory activist: Will Chinese consumers listen to Yao Ming?
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Towering ivory activist: Will Chinese consumers listen to Yao Ming?

I’ve written and ranted a bit about the trade in wildlife parts (both legal and illegal) fueled by both ignorant and ostentatious human desires. Whether it’s rhino horn, tiger penis, bear gall bladder, etc. for completely useless TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) cures or knick knacky status symbols made of ivory from African elephants, the trade is growing to proportions which threaten to wipe out several already endangered species.

Yao Ming to the rescue.

As he did regarding shark fin soup, the colossal former NBA superstar is lending his voice to the campaign against the trade in African ivory. As the global ambassador for WildAid, Yao Ming is a good choice for anti-ivory activism. He comes from what is now the biggest consumer of ivory (China) and is an internationally recognized celebrity. He believes that if his country people are well-informed about the cruelty and irresponsibility of the ivory trade they will no longer want to buy it.

From a blog entry by Yao Ming published in the Guardian:

Not 20 yards away, I saw the body of an elephant poached for its ivory three weeks ago. Its face had been cut off by poachers and its body scavenged by hyenas, scattering bones around the area. A sad mass of skin and bone. The smell was overwhelming and seemed to cling to us, even after we left.


poached elephant in Kenya, pic: elainedawn (Flickr CC)

Yao is recounting a “harrowing” part of his weeklong trip to Kenya, where he toured wildlife reserves and was saddened by what he saw – the cruel and barbaric results of poaching – though he also described his first visit to Africa as “wonderful”.

The ivory trade has grown rapidly as China’s middle class has likewise grown. And it may also be partially a byproduct of China’s increased investment and presence in Africa.

From the Associated Press:

More Chinese are now working in Africa to build roads and pump out oil and minerals, and conservationists say poaching often increases where those workers are located.

A documentary called “The End of the Wild” was also being filmed during Yao’s visit to Kenya, continuing with Ming’s following visit to South Africa.

He’s also spoken out against the use of rhino horn in TCM.

His blog is quoted in China Daily:

It’s tragic to know that these impressive animals are among the last of their kind, just because some people believe their horn, which is keratin like our fingernails, has healing properties.


Yao Ming, pic: Keith Allison (Flickr CC)