CHINA (WildAid) - He's the world's biggest star from the most populous country. And he's been fighting to end the illegal wildlife trade for more than 12 years. NBA all-star and Olympian Yao Ming is not just a WildAid ambassador, he's an integral part of WildAid's family and the conservation community.
Hear him speak, and you immediately begin to understand why Yao has been able to help convince a country of 1.4 billion people to stop buying ivory and galvanize support for China's domestic ban.
“We don't need items to prove who we are; we should be more confident than that,” Yao told Culture Express in 2018. “When we reach into our pockets, there is a cost somewhere else.”
It’s been one year since the ban went into effect and ivory prices in China are at their lowest — $734.5 per kilogram. That’s a drastic decline from $2,100 per kilogram in 2014. This downturn indicates less profit for traders and poachers, and fewer consumer purchases.
Elephants aren't the only animal to benefit from Yao's star power. Inspired by Jackie Chan's public awareness campaign for tigers, Yao wanted to curb consumption for shark fin soup. So he joined WildAid in 2006 and showed consumers how shark fin soup is made.
A whopping 82 percent of respondents to a WildAid survey said they stopped consuming shark fin soup as a direct result of Yao's awareness campaign and prices and sales of shark fins in China declined by 50 to 70 percent.
“Now it's something almost shameful for young middle-class people to eat,” Yao told The Christian Science Monitor.
Over the years, WildAid's relationship with Yao has taken some unexpected but welcome turns. In 2017, he combined his passion for conservation with his other passion – wine – and launched a special release of Yao Family Wines' Napa Crest Red Wine.
Now Yao has released three wines with a commemorative WildAid label that might look familiar.
The photograph of Yao walking with a baby elephant was taken by Kristian Schmidt in 2012 at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi. The elephant, named Kinango, was orphaned after his mother was butchered for her ivory tusks.
“We all share this planet with each other and with these majestic animals,” Yao said. “We all have a responsibility to do something to save Africa’s elephants. We all have to do our part.”
Thank you for doing your part, Yao. Let's cheers to another 12 years of working together to protect some of the world's most magnificent creatures.
Want to do your part while enjoying a sumptuous glass of wine? Visit Yao Family Wines. Proceeds will benefit threatened species like elephants, sharks, rhinos, and pangolins.