Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yao's cause

Yao Ming, retired Chinese professional NBA basketball player who stands 7' 6" (2.29m) tall, is lending his celebrity to WildAid to promote the cause of elephant conservation. He is serving as a goodwill ambassador to help stop the poaching of elephants for their tusks and rhinoceros for their horns. Yao has spent the last several weeks in Africa (photos above and here), which has given him a personal perspective on the black market: "After witnessing how illegal ivory was obtained, I really was speechless. After seeing these animals up close and watching them interact in loving and protective family groups, it was heart-wrenching and deeply depressing to see them cruelly taken before their time." He is blogging about what he sees, and what he learns about the economic and other issues, and his nationality gives his words more weight. Acknowledging the use of rhino horn in traditional Asian medical practice, Yao points out: "The Chinese government banned the illegal rhino horn and elephant ivory trades way back in 1993, but as it turned out, the prohibition only served to stimulate a price spike for these products on the black market. 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." None too soon, as poaching increases dramatically and elephant populations decline - just as dramatically.
Previous posts about one of my favorite animals:

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