Yao Ming is serious about his commitment to wildlife and conservation efforts. He joined in the fight against shark fin soup and visited a sanctuary for rescued bile farm bears among other efforts for animals. Now, he has taken a journey to Africa to bring attention to the poachers threatening rhinos and elephants in the region.
The former NBA star’s blog, “Yao’s Journey to Africa,” features photos and stories of his trip to Kenya and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a wildlife sanctuary. Ming calls the Conservancy a “key player in protecting one of the world’s most endangered species,” as it is East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. Ming’s trip is part of his ongoing conservation work with WildAid and Virgin, and part of a documentary he says is intended for a Chinese and international audience.
He writes that Ol Pejeta has teamed up with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to protect the endangered animals from poachers through “rhino patrols, armed teams, tracker dogs, aircrafts, cattle herders and local communities, and even an electrified fence that surrounds the entire perimeter of this 90,000 acre sanctuary.”
Ming seems to have been impressed with the Conservancy’s patrollers, writing “Rhino patrolling is no joke- it involves walking for hours on end, several times a day, until every last rhino is spotted at least once every three days. The rhino patrollers know each and every rhino by name and sight, and if they can’t find one during their daily patrol, then they use a plane to patrol the entire conservancy until all rhinos are accounted for!”
Despite these efforts, Ol Pejeta has lost 5 of their 88 rhinos to poachers in the last year, which Ming reports is their biggest lost in 20 years. He writes, “As you can imagine, protecting rhinos from illegal poaching is not only time intensive, but also expensive! Richard Vigne, the CEO of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, believes that the public and local communities should play an important part in protecting rhinos and wildlife in general. That’s where tourists, like me, can help out in a big way.”
Ming encouraged others to visit the Conservancy or even join in the patrols. “Ol Pejeta opens its doors to visitors who come for safaris or to volunteer with rhino patrolling. The revenue generated by tourists and volunteers is what fuels Ol Pejeta’s conservation efforts, and in essence, what keeps black rhinos safe.”
Did he hang out with any of the protected rhinos during his stay? Ming writes…”stay tuned!”