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Retired Chinese basketball great Yao Ming is on his first tour of Africa to shoot a documentary titled The End of Wild aimed at putting the lid on poaching.
Former Chinese NBA (National Basketball Association) player and WildAid Ambassador Yao Ming caresses a leopard at Kenyan Wildlife Service in Kenya, Aug 16. [Photo/Xinhua]
Coming off a fresh TV commentating experience at the London Olympics, the WildAid ambassador embarked on the 10-day trip on Aug 10 and has come face-to-face with some of the world's most majestic species – elephants, rhinos, and leopards -- during a week's shooting in Kenya.
He also launched a blog that captures a variety of moments – pleasant, peaceful and poignant – during the journey and shares his feelings.
"Both elephants and rhinos are being hunted at record levels for their ivory and horns. I was really shocked to learn that even dead rhinos aren't safe," he wrote on the eve of his departure, after visiting the Natural History Museum in London.
In his weeklong stay in Kenya, Yao toured the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where he watched elephants and lions from his vehicle, and had close contact with two of the world's remaining seven Northern White Rhinos.
"It's tragic to know these impressive animals are among the last of their kind, just because some people believe their horn, which is just keratin like our fingernails, has healing properties," he blogged on Aug 14.
Scenes of elephant carcasses in Namunyak and a heap of tusks at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in Nairobi have shocked Yao, who said it was "a sight I will not soon forget."
The 32-year-old former Houston Rockets center has been working with conservation group WildAid in protest of illegal wildlife trades for several years. He has shot a couple of advertisements saying no to shark fin soup to raise the public's awareness about shark protection.
The fact that Yao is from a country that is one of the world's largest consumers of wildlife parts and products, such as rhino horns and elephant ivory, makes his campaign more impressive.
Current projections suggest that there will be around 250 million new middle class consumers over the next 10-15 years.
Yao is expected to head to South Africa on Friday to continue filming the wildlife protection-themed documentary.
Former Chinese NBA (National Basketball Association) player and WildAid Ambassador Yao Ming stands behind the carcass of an elephant in Namunyak, some 350 kilometers north of the capital, Nairobi, Kenya, Aug 13. [Photo/Xinhua]