Former NBA star Yao Ming, famously referred to as China's favourite son, has been in Kenya filming a wildlife documentary. The documentary will feature Kenya's wildlife tourism and the threat of poaching . Speaking at a collective press conference, the director of Kenya Wildlife Services Julius Kipng'etich said Kenya's ties with China should be strengthened.
"Elephants should not separate us", he said. "When people wear ivory, it is time to say 'No', Africa has only 400,000 elephants. That's it. If we kill all of those. It's finished." KWS along with Kenya's conservation fraternity are hopeful about the campaign, in recognising the vital role of Chinese leadership in the fight to protect Kenya's remaining elephants.
"It is now scientifically accepted that the demand for ivory exceeds the number of elephants," said Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton. Yao Ming joined the Save The Elephants team in Samburu to mingle with the community and also learn about elephants and how the community live in peace with the animals.
When asked how he felt when he saw a poached elephant, Yao Ming responded: "Animals on this planet either live or die, but to die in that way, is evil." The former basketball star was visibly saddened when recalling his experience.
In his closing remarks, Dr Douglas-Hamilton reiterated the plight of the African elephant. He recounted his experience when they toured China's last forest elephants. "These wild elephants get high protection and respect. If the Chinese government felt about the African elephant, the same way they feel about their own elephants, we may see change very quickly."
Yao Ming said Chinese government "need to do a lot of things to stop ivory trade." He expressed his fondest memory of his trip to Kenya as being a morning on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, "at 6am, the sunrise with wild animals..."
"China is now a major player in Africa. Chinese leadership is needed to solve this problem." Stressed Dr. Hamilton. In the meantime, poaching remains on a high as KWS continues to battle with poachers to protect Kenya's remaining elephants.