On March 3rd, former NBA superstar Yao Ming delivered a very important petition at the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultation Conference. With this first step, Yao is urging his home country of China – currently the world’s leading ivory consumer – to ban the sale of ivory and help end the current poaching crisis that is threatening endangered elephant and rhino populations worldwide.
Yao was able to experience the crisis firsthand when he traveled to Kenya and South Africa to film a documentary on illegal poaching. After returning home, he launched a campaign in partnership with WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants to reduce the demand for ivory and rhino horns.
Since its foundation, the campaign was been very successful in China and has yielded encouraging results. This January, government officials crushed more than six tons of ivory to send a message to those in the ivory trade. On February 27th, many of China’s top businessmen pledged to never purchase, possess or gift ivory – a huge step for a culture that has considered ivory an important present and sign of respect.
Huang Nubo, WildAid China Board Chairman, said “[a]s China grows up, Chinese companies should do the same and take on more social responsibility. This is why we are joining efforts to protect our planet’s wildlife. We hope this ethic becomes engrained in us and is passed down to future generations.”
This is not the first time Yao has stepped up to protect threatened animals in his country. After Yao participated in a past campaign with WildAid, President Xi’s administration banned dishes including shark fin from state banquets. This was a great commitment for the country since, before the ban, shark fin soup was considered a sign of status and was expected at most important gatherings. Since shark fin dishes were excluded from state banquets, China’s demand for the fins has dropped by 50%.
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