Retired NBA basketball player Yao Ming is visiting Kenya to film a crucial documentary aimed at highlighting the dwindling populations of rhinos and elephants in the country, occasioned by poaching.
Yao’s first ever visit to Kenya is a meaningful one, as it will enlist his support in taking the anti-poaching message to his Chinese homeland, where Ivory is a prized commodity.
According to a statement from the Ol Pejeta conservancy, which houses four of the world’s remaining seven northern white rhino, the documentary will be titled “The End of the Wild”.
Yao arrived in Kenya on Friday, August 10, and has so far visited Ol Pejeta in addition to having talks with scientists and conservationists, including Daphne Sheldrick of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who are actively involved in protecting the endangered species.
The former sportsman, who has a foundation that supports various ventures, will visit the Ivory Room in the company of Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipngetich, to see the damage caused to the elephant and rhino population in the country over several years.
China is the world’s most prominent destination for rhino horn and ivory, with projections suggesting there will be an added 250 million middle class consumers over the next 10-15 years – making this campaign all the more crucial to preserve wildlife. It is not Yao’s first attempt to protect elephants.
The massive consumption in China of the illegal wildlife parts and products meanwhile has been blamed on a combination of ‘old customs and traditions with new money’, among other things.
Increasing populations of rhino and elephant between 1989 and 2007 have started dwindling dramatically due to an escalation of poaching activities.
Yao’s feature-length documentary hopes to underscore the beauty and economic importance of wildlife tourism, and highlight the extant of the poaching crisis.
Yao Ming is an ambassador for charity organization Wild Aid, which has teamed up with Save The Elephants and Ol Pejeta, to craft this documentary.
The Chinese national has blogged about his trip, expressing his excitement at seeing warthogs and reliving a warning to stay in the vehicle at Ol Pejeta because he is in ‘lion country’.
(Pics on Yao Ming’s blog)