By Jaimi Dolmage
Elephants and rhinos are facing dwindling numbers so severe that several species within these two groups have already become extinct, all because of the price of their parts. Ivory poaching claimed the lives of 33,000 elephants in Africa in 2013, while almost 3 rhinos per day were killed for their horns in South Africa alone. With projections showing that African elephants could be extinct by 2020, only 6 years from now if this practice continues, something has to change.
Yao Ming wants this to end, which is why he traveled to Africa in order to see the problem first hand. His trip is documented in the upcoming Animal Planet special, “Saving Africa’s Giants With Yao Ming” and explores not only the devastation that poaching and wildlife trafficking have had on elephants and rhinos, but to the people in the region as well. It will also explore what needs to be done to stop the practice.
“You know, the poacher sometimes is doing this just to live,” Ming said in a recent reddit AMA about the nuances of the issue. “And it can be very easy to tell them don’t poach anymore, but you have to consider what are they doing to live? So, the entire chain needs to be changed-from the beginning we have to stop the buying.”
This isn’t the first time that Yao Ming has worked to stop the ivory trade and bring an end to poaching. He’s attended international Wildlife Trafficking events and stared in PSAs opposing shark fin soup. He also delivered a petition earlier this year to the Chinese government urging a ban on ivory. With China being the largest consumer of ivory in the world (the U.S. is the second), a ban would make a huge impact.
We can watch the special, airing Tuesday, November 18th at 10/9 central on Animal Planet. We can also sign the Be Ivory Free pledge to show our commitment to ending the practice by vowing to change the chain. “The huge price motivates poachers to persist,” Says Ming, again referencing the need for change to begin with the consumer. “and if we buy Ivory, it makes all of us killers as well.”