Then I get to meet Najin and Suni, two of the world’s remaining seven Northern White Rhinos – representing one of the most endangered species on the planet.  The Northern White Rhino once roamed through Congo, Uganda, and Sudan, but now only seven remain, four of which are at Ol Pejeta.

Yao Ming Meets Najin and Suni, Two of the World's Remaining 7 Northern White Rhinos

Photo by Kristian Schmidt / WildAid

The four Northern Whites were translocated to Ol Pejeta in December of 2009 from a zoo in the Czech Republic in a last attempt to save the species. They have been totally decimated in the wild, due to poaching fueled by demand for rhino horn for traditional medicinal uses in Asia.

The transfer was aimed at providing the rhinos with the most favorable breeding conditions in an attempt to pull the species back from the verge of extinction. It was thought that the climatic, dietary and security conditions that the rhinos will enjoy at Ol Pejeta will provide them with higher chances of starting a population in what is seen as the very last lifeline for the species.

Yao Ming Meets Najin, One of the World's Remaining 7 Northern White Rhinos

Photo by Kristian Schmidt / WildAid

Because they were animal zoos all of their lives, these rhinos are easily approachable. This is how I’m able to get so close to them.  Don’t try this at home!

Yao Ming Meets Mohammed, Keeper of the Northern White Rhinos at Ol Pejeta

Photo by Kristian Schmidt / WildAid

I meet Najin and Suni with their keeper Mohammed. I’m even able to feed hay to them and tickle behind their ears. It’s clear these are Mohammad’s babies. He dotes on them and if anything happened to them he would be heartbroken.

Yao Ming Encounters Northern White Rhinos at The Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Photo by Kristian Schmidt / WildAid

These are immense and powerful creatures. As one of them pushes me, I’m reminded of the immense pressure I used to feel when I had to guard Shaquille O’Neal. You knew that pressure while guarding Shaq, and you know it when a rhino leans on you.

Yao Ming Encounters Northern White Rhinos at The Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Photo by Kristian Schmidt / WildAid

But this power is meaningless in the face of a poacher’s bullet or wire snare. To make them less of a target, they have been dehorned – a painless process removing the top of the horn, but because there is still a substantial nub they are still under constant threat.

It’s tragic to know these impressive animals are among the last of their kind, just because some people believe their horn, which is just keratin like our fingernails, has healing properties.

It would be a tragedy if we lost them.


19 responses

  1. Steve Specht

    Yao – worked with you in summer of 2004 in Frisco , TX and went to Dr . For your foot and to lunch . Have tried to reach you since. Glad to see you are well and doing so many Positive things in retirement . I hope you will respond . I would love to reminisce and stay in touch . Coach Steve

    August 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

  2. Victor

    Hope these adorable animals will not disappear from the world. Yao, continue these right things….

    August 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm

  3. Good work in Yao..thanks for choosing to do it here at Kenya

    August 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm

  4. Charles

    Just wondering if there has been progress in the inbreedin, otherwise with all support, Ol Pejeta will be able to counter the environmental impact and the senseless poachers.
    God bless you Yao and your team.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:54 am

  5. Margaux

    Thank you so much for your efforts to help these enormous beauties! Poaching has been extremely bad again over the last years in Africa and the amount of rhinos poached gets higher every year. It’s horrible and there aren’t a lot of people that know about this problem. It’s tragic, I’ve been trying to get people I know invested in helping the rhinos and I’m positive your efforts will do this! BTW you should read the book The last rhinos by Lawrence Anthony, it’s about the fight to save the last of the northern white rhinos!

    August 15, 2012 at 2:09 am

  6. I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for undertaking this journey. I got the opportunity to volunteer, studying black rhino at Ol Pejeta 2 years ago and I fell in love with these majestic animals. Their plight, like that of so many other species distresses me deeply. I really hope that together we can make a difference.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:38 am

  7. Hong

    Yo. I am from Malaysia. Rhino? Shaq?! LOL!!!

    August 15, 2012 at 8:02 am

  8. steve


    August 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

  9. Rhino horn is not Medicine, this is my message to the Asian country, deliver

    August 16, 2012 at 1:16 am

  10. tjwdraws

    Thank you for helping make the plight of these rhinos better known. Let’s hope we are a smart enough species to bring them back from the dangerous place we have brought them!

    August 17, 2012 at 3:53 am

  11. Pingback: Rhino Crisis Round Up: Yao Ming in Kenya & More | Planetsave

  12. Pingback: Yao Ming Visits Kenya Aimed At Protecting African Elephants, Rhinos

  13. diddydavis muratha

    China is the world’s most prominent destination for rhino horn and ivory, with projections suggesting there will be an added 250 million middle class consumers over the next 10-15 years – making this campaign all the more crucial to preserve wildlife…..thanx 4 being on our side

    August 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  14. Carol

    Thank you Yao Ming for your work here in Africa absolutely essential that the world takes note of the horrors of the poaching of our Elephant and Rhino…

    August 22, 2012 at 1:43 am

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  16. Gemma

    Tks Yao for caring about the animals and raising awareness to people to pls stop buying ivory, rhino horn, sharks fins’ etc.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:09 am

  17. Gemma

    the more people get together to try and help/save these animals the better! They are majestic creatures, elephants rhinos and sharks and it is very troubling and worrying these all these 3 species incl others are under v. threat of teetering to extinction because of people’s selfishness and/or ignorance.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

  18. Pingback: September 15: The Young Rhinos | Yao's Journey to Africa

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