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Former NBA Star Yao Ming Visits Lewa as part of his Anti-Poaching Campaign

October 09, 2013

When the buying stops, the killing can too.

Yao Ming, the seven-foot six-inch Chinese basketball player who played for the Houston Rockets, is now using his star power to help stop the poaching of rhinos and elephants. In a campaign launched by WildAid, Yao has been journeying across Africa since last year, documenting the harsh reality facing the future of these iconic species. In his fact-finding mission, he spent several days in Kenya interacting with wildlife officials and witnessing first-hand the effects of poaching.

Yao returned to Kenya again this year. On this trip, one of his stops was the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. On September 16th, he spent time with Nicky, Hope and Kilifi, the three black rhino calves currently being hand-raised. In his blog, he details his experience with the rhinos fondly, fascinated by the gentle sounds they make and describing Kilifi as 'very sweet – a tiny miniature rhino.'

While Nicky and Kilifi are being hand reared due to natural causes (Nicky is blind and Kilifi's mother is partially blind), Hope is evidence of the far-reaching effects of poaching. His mother was gunned down in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in March of this year, leaving him orphaned. Yusuf, one of the rhinos' keepers, asked Yao why people from Asia still purchase rhino horn to make medicine.

" There is a traditional belief, but legal traditional medicine practitioners stopped using rhino horn in 1993 in China and now use alternative treatments. But some people don’t understand the price the rhinos have to pay for the use of horn and we hope with our film that we can raise awareness."

With China being the world's most prominent destination for rhino horn and ivory, having one of the Asian nation's greatest sporting icons take this important message home is extremely critical. The film from Yao's trip will be produced later this year, and hopefully will help 'overhaul' the thinking of many rhino horn and ivory consumers. 

”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.”

Follow Yao's blog and Facebook page to read more on his fight against poaching.