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Environmentalist Ex-NBA Star Visits Kenya on Anti-Poaching Tour

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, China, Kenya, Environment, Sport

Since retiring from the National Basketball Association a year ago, Chinese star Yao Ming [1] has become a committed environmentalist. He is currently working with WildAid [2]to “promote wildlife conservation and to reduce the demand for products from endangered or threatened species”. China is a significant market for products such as ivory and thus having Yao Ming lead the cause was a perfect fit for WildAid; well over half [3] of illegal ivory ends up in China.

From 11 August, 2012, Ming arrived for his first African tour and was hosted in Kenya’s capital Nairobi – one of the few cities in the world with a national park. The Nairobi National Park plays host to the Kenya Wildlife Services’ headquarters, which is the custodian of the country's national parks and most public conservation areas.

Yao Ming comes face to face with a poached elephant in Northern Kenya. Image by Kristian Schmidt from WildAid Facebook page.

Yao Ming comes face to face with a poached elephant in Northern Kenya. Image by Kristian Schmidt from WildAid Facebook page.

In response to the visit, DailyKenya blog [4] says:

Former NBA basketball player Yao Ming is in Kenya in his role as WildAid Ambassador, to bring attention to poachers threatening rhinos and elephants. Yao is also expected to shoot an anti-poaching documentary in the country. On Saturday, the former Houston Rockets star visited the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Nanyuki. The conservancy serves as a sanctuary for four of the world’s remaining seven Northern white rhinos and in spite of increased security in the conservancy, 5 of its 88 rhinos have been poached in the past one year. The documentary titled “The End of the Wild” is expected to show the beauty and economic importance of wildlife and the extent of the poaching crisis

On his African travel blog, YaoMingBlog [5], Yao Ming himself has captured each and every step of this African tour along with great photos to tell the story further:

Then I get to meet Najin and Suni, two of the world’s remaining seven Northern White Rhinos – representing one of the most endangered species on the planet. The Northern White Rhino once roamed through Congo, Uganda and Sudan but now only seven remain, four of which are at Ol Pejeta. The four Northern Whites (were) translocated to Ol Pejeta in December of 2009 from a zoo in the Czech Republic in a last attempt to save the species. They have been totally decimated in the wild, due to poaching fuelled by demand for rhino horn for traditional medicinal uses in Asia. The transfer was aimed at providing the rhinos with the most favourable breeding conditions in an attempt to pull the species back from the verge of extinction. It was thought that the climatic, dietary and security conditions that the rhinos will enjoy at Ol Pejeta will provide them with higher chances of starting a population in what is seen as the very last lifeline for the species

Nanyuki and the North blog [6] captures Yao Ming’s visit from a local’s perspective in a brief post:

1. China’s Growing Presence in Africa - Ol Pejeta, the conservancy very close to Nanyuki, had a big (see what I did there? Not yet? You will) visitor this past weekend. In fact, I was rather bummed I didn’t hear about this until after the fact. Apparently, Ol Pejeta has been active in developing an anti-poaching initiative. Pretty cool, right? Well, so cool apparently, that in order to support their initiative, they were visited by none other than YAO MING. Out of control. Yao was 10 miles from my home this past weekend in Rift Valley, Kenya.