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Yao Ming aims to save Africa's elephants, by persuading China to give up ivory

Yao Ming aims to save Africa s elephants by persuading China to give up ivory The Washington Post


Yao’s transformation from basketball center to wildlife activist began in 2006, when he first met with staff members from WildAid, a San Francisco-based charity, during another injury-plagued season in the NBA. The activists soon persuaded the man who began his career with the Shanghai Sharks to join their campaign to save the world’s actual sharks, by pressing the Chinese people to give up shark fin soup.

Since then, Yao has appeared in a string of commercials and made countless public appearances to ram home the bloody reality of the global shark-finning industry, to show his fellow citizens how Chinese demand was wiping out some of the ocean’s most elegant creatures, and to convince them that serving the dish at weddings and banquets is not a sign of sophistication but of ignorance.

Incredibly, implausibly, Yao and WildAid may have pulled it off. In part as a result of an anti-corruption campaign in which the costly delicacy was banned at government banquets, shark fin soup is falling out of fashionhere. A WildAid study released in August showed prices and sales of shark fins in China down by 50 to 70 percent.

But the carving of ivory is perhaps an even more deeply rooted tradition in China, and as wealth has grown, so has the fashion for giving lavishly carved pieces to business associates and friends as gifts. Although China allows a small, legal trade in ivory from old stockpiles, this provides the cover for a vast, illegal trade that has fueled a new wave of poaching in Africa, experts say.

Stashed in: Basketball, China!, #kindness, Compassion, Stories, Elephants!, Africa, Restore your faith in humanity., Elephants

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I didn't realize how endangered the elephants are. Wow. Way to go Yao!

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 to supply 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.

Hearing Yao's story restored my faith in humanity, a little.

Yao is a tall man with a big heart.

Athletic and kind are a good combination.

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