Yao Ming aims to save Africa's elephants, by persuading China to give up ivory
By Simon Denyer, Washington Post
September 4, 2014
BEIJING — As a shy, nervous 22-year-old NBA rookie, Yao Ming confronted the concentrated power of Shaquille O’Neal for the first time — and came out a winner.
Now, more than a decade later and long retired from the game, the former Houston Rocket faces a challenge perhaps as daunting as it is radically different: to wean the Chinese nation off its love of ivory, and save Africa’s dwindling elephant population.
In the past three years alone, about 100,000 elephants have been poached for their tusks, according to a new study: a mass slaughter propelled by an ever-rising Chinese demand for ivory from an ever-richer nation. Yet the player once nicknamed the “Great Wall of China” aims to stop that flood, through the power of persuasion.
The metaphors are perhaps too easy: basketball’s gentle giant aiming to save Africa’s gentle giants; the man who built a bridge between China and the United States now trying to bridge another vast cultural divide, between his nation’s nouveau riche and the people and animals of Africa.
The 7-foot, 6-inch Yao, 33, said in a recent interview that he had connected with Africa particularly because “many animals there are bigger than me.”
The former NBA star teamed up with the wildlife protection group WildAid to help publicize the loss of African elephants and rhinoceroses to poachers. READ FULL STORY