Former NBA star Yao Ming wound up a 10-day shoot in Kenya last week, where he decried the total waste by poachers who kill elephants for ivory.
At a packed press conference at a Nairobi hotel, the 7-foot plus Chinese celebrity narrated his experience in Kenya and his mission with conservation organisation WildAid.
Dressed in a yellow t-shirt, Yao towered over the rest of the panellists at the conference. He described the murder of elephants as an utter shame, and said he hoped to help put an end to it.
“People took a small piece of the elephant and left the most behind, but the small piece they took away was not only the ivory, but also the life…,” he said.
An emotional Yao refused to express how he felt when he saw the murdered animals.
Yao is starring in a feature-length documentary that will be aired on Chinese international television, aimed at discouraging Chinese locals from buying ivory products and rhino horns.
Yao is an ambassador with WildAid, who are driving the campaign, and their joint efforts have been rewarded before with a similar crusade by the former basketball player against Shark Fin soup.
WildAid Founder Peter Knights said that just preventing poaching will not solve the problem.
“If you don’t reduce the demand (for ivory) you will not succeed, all you will do is you will end up driving up the price,” he said at the press conference, where he was flanked by the Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipn’getich.
“Africa has only 400,000 elephants left. If you kill all the 400,000 elephants, where will you get more ivory? It’s time to say no, only elephants should wear ivory,” said the KWS boss.
Film crew who were involved with shooting the documentary described Yao as a gentle soul, who genuinely cared about the project he was involved in.
“He was really moved by what he saw,” said one of the camera assistants.
The crew was called back to Nanyuki after two elephants carcasses were found by rangers, which they incorporated into the documentary, titled ‘The End of the Wild’.
(Photos by Kristian Schmidt).