CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

We then visit the Save the Elephants field station.  A crushed pick-up sits outside as a monument to what can happen if you get on the wrong side of an elephant. Every panel was crushed as it was rolled over during a clash between two bulls.

A Crushed Save the Elephants Vehicle

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

Living next to elephants isn’t always easy — in some areas, crop raiding is a real problem. But here, where people rely on goats and camels rather than crops, there seems to be a peaceful co-existence.

En route, we see a mother lioness and two cubs sitting probably eight feet from our open vehicle. Peter Knights tells me as long as you remain in the vehicle, the lions will show no interest in you — step out and they’ll either run away or run after you. I’m a nice “medium rare” from the equatorial African sun, but I’d rather not be on the menu today!

A Lioness and Her Cubs

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

As we watch, I notice movement behind me and see an elephant sniffing the air and then trumpeting and spreading its ears to make it seem much larger. We move out of the way and then the elephant shows who’s boss and clears the lions out shaking its head at them. They scamper off, occasionally turning back to consider trying their luck, but discretion is the better part of valor.

Sir Iain Douglas Hamilton tells me they know all of the elephant families and track their movements using radio collars that would break our backs, but are lightweight for the elephants. Using Google Earth, they are able to track an individual animal’s movements and identify corridors between parks, which can then be protected. At another site in the Maasai Mara, they have a male elephant named after me. I tell Iain I was a Rocket, not a Bull, but I am looking forward to being able to track my elephant namesake. I hope he stays safe.

Yao Ming Among Africans at Samburu Reserve

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

Finally, we head out to record a Public Service Announcement with the elephants. They obligingly march right past me in the vehicle as if they know we need their help to get the message out to please not buy their ivory.

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11 responses

  1. Melinda Mueller

    I love reading your saga of your African travels! You are doing so much for the elephants, and I can’t even fathom all you must be seeing and learning in the process! I am envious, but mostly, I’m just profoundly grateful for all you are doing to stifle the ivory trade. Please don’t stop; you are saving lives through your work!!

    August 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm

  2. Hemi

    Thank you Yao for making and effort to raise awareness of your country people for the plight of this magnificent animals…. They deserve our efforts to save them… This is their last stand and there are few people in the world who are doing their best to save them..Thank you for being one of them…

    August 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    • Angela Chu

      Yao Ming should also put some effort into STOP HUNTING. We are not hunters and we don’t hunt for food. I have seen videos of poor babies losing their parents just because we call HUNTING a sport. Yao, please also try to save Bambi.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:08 am

  3. Wonderful job, Yao. I love your motivation.

    August 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm

  4. gbl

    Thumbs up:)

    August 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  5. barb marshall

    He is a wonderful example of somebody who made it big and is doing something positive to help the world.. not just being self-serving like so many are. Thank you Yao Ming

    August 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

  6. Love reading your blog updates each day… admire you for the stand you are taking and your motivation to re educate others …. we support you.

    August 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

  7. annacanazza

    Love your daily blog updates and admire your work and the stand you are taking…

    August 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm

  8. chenyun

    god !

    August 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm

  9. Angela Chu

    Yao Ming, I hope you would some effort into STOP HUNTING. We don’t need to hunt for food. I am sure you have seen videos of babies losing their mother in the wild just because we call HUNTING a SPORT. Yao Ming, please also save Bambi.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:12 am

  10. Vera Davis

    I have an adopted elephant from that orphanage! I volunteer for a kindergarten teacher here in Phx, AZ and give a “presentation” to the children about my adopted elephant. They are so interested and so eager to learn! A little education at a time! thank you for your wonderful work!

    August 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

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