The Green Leaf

Yao's Journey to Africa

August 17th, 2012
Former NBA star Yao Ming inspects the corpse of a poached elephant in northern Kenya. Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid.

Former NBA star Yao Ming inspects the corpse of a poached elephant in northern Kenya. He is on a fact-finding mission with WildAid as part of a campaign to reduce the demand for ivory products in China. Photo credit: Kristian Schmidt for WildAid.

Former NBA basketball star Yao Ming — who last played for the Houston Rockets — is on a journey in Africa.

He's in Africa for the first time with international conservation group Wild Aid, where he's come face to face with some of the world's most majestic species — including the elephant and the rhino.

He and Wild Aid are on a fact-finding mission documenting the poaching crisis these creatures face as a result of growing demand for ivory and rhino horn products. It's also part of a campaign to reduce the demand for ivory product in China, the main destination for illegal ivory.

Yao Ming at Samburu National Reserve with staff from Save the Elephants and Elephant Watch. Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid from yaomingblog.com.

Yao Ming at Samburu National Reserve with staff from Save the Elephants and Elephant Watch. Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid from yaomingblog.com.

Since 2008, elephant poaching has been on the rise, according to Save the Elephants and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

After seeing the gruesome sight of the poached elephant on the ground, Yao's latest blog post details a trip to the Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu National Reserve, where he encounters the majestic elephants alive, up close and personal, including a baby elephant.

"Suddenly, I realize that between 3 medium-sized elephants is a tiny baby lying down resting, her sisters towering over her, positioned in a protective triangle," he writes in his blog. "I can already see how these animals watch out for each other and are a close-knit family...the more I learn and observe, the more I realize how much they share with humans – lifespan, adolescence, family bonds and emotions...So many of these animals have been lost to the poacher's bullet, and yet they still trust us, allowing us to be a part of their lives."

You can follow Yao's journey through Africa at yaomingblog.com.

To learn more about what you can do, visit Save the Elephants and Wild Aid.

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