Elephants, rhinos and sharks under Yao Ming’s protection


yao-doubleOne thing former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is known for, aside from basketball – is for protection of endangered wildlife, like elephants, rhinos and sharks.

After retiring from the NBA, Yao has also become a passionate spokesman for the wildlife conservation group WildAid, campaigning to stop the slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Africa, CNN reported.

The 7’5 Yao stands against killing animals. It should be noted that China is the world’s biggest market for elephant ivory. There are dozens of legal companies in the country that sell licensed ivory, but the demand from China’s growing middle class for ivory is also driving the black market, smuggling of illegal elephant tusks into the country.

And it’s not just elephant ivory, the Chinese have also long consumed rhinoceros horn, but for different medicinal purposes. Rhino horn is an ingredient that some Chinese believe has powerful healing properties.

The Chinese government banned the sale of rhino horn 20 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the destructive black market’s demand for this illegal stuff, which some say is more valuable than gold.

Yao in his turn is trying to teach his countrymen that these animals are more valuable alive than cut up as trophies in a living room.

Yao traveled to Africa with WildAid and witnessed the poaching of these giant creatures first-hand.

What he saw there was worse than fighting for position in the paint on the basketball court.

“We saw a couple elephants and rhinos cut, and it’s very ugly. Because the animal is so big, they can’t kill by just a single bullet. They sometimes find a lot of bullet holes on their bodies. It makes me feel like it’s genocide,” Yao said.

“The money is making people turn to dark side,” he said, “to doing something terrible like what I saw over there,” he said.

Yao Ming’s environmental activism began several years ago with an appeal to stop Chinese from eating shark-fin soup, a delicacy that is devastating the world’s shark population.

Yao said there was resistance at first, but now it appears many Chinese are listening to his message.

In July 2011, Yao announced his retirement from professional basketball due to a series of foot and ankle injuries which forced him to miss 250 games in his last six seasons.

Yao played 8 years in the NBA – all for the Houston Rockets. He holds career averages of 19 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, and 1.9 blocks per game. He appeared in 486 NBA games (476 started), and was selected to the NBA All-Star team 8 times.

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