By Harriet Alexander [Admin note: second item on page.\
As a child, Jackie Chan (above) was convinced that traditional remedies would turn him into a kung-fu master.
“I thought shark fin soup was good for the skin, for collagen. I thought tiger bone oil was good for when you get hurt.
“These kinds of things are always in your mind – traditional things. You eat pig’s brain and get clever. When you eat pig knuckle you feel good. You are young, you have no TV, you know nothing,” he says.
But as an adult, Chan is dedicating himself to debunking such beliefs. And it is a cause that the martial arts all-action hero has embraced with gusto, since receiving a plea for help almost 20 years ago from WildAid, a charity that campaigns to end the trade in endangered wildlife products.
Chan, 58, is uniquely valuable to the organisation in that he is equally high-profile in Hollywood and in Asia, the hub of trade for ivory, rhino horn and shark fin products. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph during a whirlwind 14-hour visit to London to coincide with the anti-poaching conference, he says he is taking the message to the highest echelons of Chinese politics.
“I was making a film in China and the government bought me a dinner,” he says. “I sit down; boom – they give me shark fin soup. I said: 'Put it away.’ I start talking. Politely – it was 10 years ago, and I was a foreigner from Hong Kong, but I told them.
“The second time they invited me, there was no shark fin soup.”
Since then, Chan has recorded a series of adverts for Chinese television calling for his fellow citizens to stop buying ivory and stop believing that rhino horn, tiger bone and other such traditional remedies will cure them of cancer, impotence and other ailments. He has also recruited fellow Chinese stars such as basketball player Yao Ming to the cause, and starred alongside celebrities such as David Beckham.
“When governments do things, the people just don’t concentrate. But if you use celebrity, they will believe it,” he says. “We need more celebrities to speak out about this.”
He carries a copy of a WildAid documentary on his laptop, and shows it to people to explain his work. “I tell them; believe me, it’s wrong. Slowly they learn to believe the message.”
He thinks that China is slowly changing, and that the government is now waking up to the campaign – he persuaded the government to air, for free, his latest anti-rhino poaching advert on prime-time television.
Has he tried to recruit any of his Hollywood friends to the cause?
“Sure. They listen. Will Smith, Kenny G – I talk to them about it. But they don’t like shark fin soup anyway.”