As part of a massive campaign by the conservation charity WildAid, former NBA star Yao Ming has been journeying throughout Africa for nearly a month, documenting the crisis facing wild elephant and rhino populations.
The 7-foot 6-inch star's trip is the most recent example of his work to raise awareness. He has become a surprise international force in the world of animal activism, using his fame to highlight the plight of sharks and bears "farmed" for bile. His latest effort is his most in-depth commitment yet and is a fascinating yet heartbreaking display of communicating the dramatic poaching underway in Africa.
"After witnessing how illegal ivory was obtained, I really was speechless," he wrote on his blog. "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."
WildAid, which is producing a documentary on the visit called "The End of the Wild," estimates the illegal wildlife trade to be worth more than $10 billion per year. While hundreds of millions are spent on conservation of threatened animals, the organization says virtually nothing is being done to stem demand for the animal products. "When the buying stops, the killing can too," the organization states.
In an interview with the Washington Post, the 31-year-old Ming echoed his group's mission statement. "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 cam start to see an improvement."
To learn more, visit Yao Ming's daily blog from the field here. A video detailing more about the poaching trade in Africa is below.