The next morning, we see five magnificent white rhinos in the Park, sizing us up before crossing the path in front of our vehicle. It’s refreshing to see them as they should be, with their horns intact.

Back in Johannesburg, I meet Pelham Jones of the Private Rhino Owners Association. Pelham has been very active in assisting law enforcement officials track down poachers.

It is no longer the occasional shooting from an AK-47 obtained in a neighbouring civil war. Now, it might be a professional single shot from a high calibre hunting weapon or a dart from a veterinary tranquilizer. In some cases, helicopters have been used.

The war is escalating. Perhaps it’s time to defund it.

From my trip it’s clear that South Africans feel the same way about their rhinos as we Chinese do about our Pandas. They are a source of inspiration and great national pride as we brought them back from what looked like inevitable extinction.

For South Africa, it’s also an important source of tourism revenue, which is now under threat.

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

Unfortunately, a very small number of people in Asia are still buying rhino horn, either as speculation or for what they may believe is a medicine or a tonic. The horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up our hair and fingernails.

Legitimate traditional medicine in China ended rhino horn use in 1993.

As I leave Africa, I go with incredible positive memories of the beauty, the wide open spaces, the incredible diversity of large animals wiped out elsewhere on the planet, but also with sadness that the actions of just a few people in a world of 7 billion can jeopardize the future of the two largest animals walking the earth.

Collectively these people are sabotaging African economies and stealing from us all.

As the vast majority, we need to let them know that this is not acceptable and is damaging China’s relations with our friends and trading partners in Africa.  We would be outraged if people were killing our pandas, we should be just as upset with what’s happening to rhinos and elephants in Africa.

From the conversations I’ve had, and the conversations WildAid has had with Chinese officials, there is a clear government commitment to collaborating to solve this. Peter Knights tells me Vietnam is also willing to collaborate.

But laws will only go so far. We need a drastic increase in awareness to reduce markets. Myself and other prominent Asians will be working with WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation, and other organizations to this end and we hope you will join us.

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

That means any of us who know people buying rhino horn or ivory need to ask them to stop, explain to them what is at stake and ask them to be part of the solution and not the problem.

Yao Ming Meets an Orphaned Black Rhino

Photo by Kristian Schmidt


9 responses

  1. Melinda Mueller

    Is it possible that the Chinese government would be willing to help fund anti-poaching enforcement, along with other projects that they are involved with, in Africa? It is brilliant to use the comparison between protecting the pandas and protecting the rhinos (and hopefully, the eles as well) – it’s an apt comparison to make and also one that those in China who value the pandas can easily relate to. Yao, I am following your African journeys avidly and am cheering your efforts (and am cheered BY them!). You have so much more influence with the Chinese people than most others in the world could ever hope for – I am just so grateful for your dedication to your (our) quest to end the killing. I read about the carnage and donate as much as I can, but I feel so helpless, when I know animals are dying even as I write this. So many celebrities squander the fame they have, and do no good in the world with it. Thank you so much for using your fame to put a spotlight on the poachers and their customers. It’s the only way things will ever change, at least before the eles and rhinos are gone forever.

    September 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  2. Jeanne

    Yao Ming, thank you. Thank you and thank you. God bless you for what you can, and have been able to do with this awakening trip to keep our rhinos living, well, protected, loved and preserved. God bless you as you go back and take with you this mandate to help eradicate the trade.
    All blessings, Jeanne – Johannesburg

    September 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm

  3. Sharon Codner

    I love what you are doing to help the animals and to help improve awareness…you’re a true friend to the animals a real legend…let’s hope your blog will help to educate as many people as possible…I’m with you all the way..

    September 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm

  4. Pingback: RHINO REFLECTIONS « Credit Risk Strategy


    Dear Yao Ming
    What a great and honorable thing you are doing to help and raise awareness for these wonderful majestic animals. Not just in Africa but in your country too. Please continue the great work and spread the message loud and clear that these senseless slaughters must stop. Elephants, Rhinos, sharks all have a purpose and they must be protected from man’s ugliness and you are the right man to do it. Thanks so much

    Sincerely JP KAZAKIAN

    September 13, 2012 at 5:12 am

  6. tamara.sprenkeling@gmail.com

    Dear yao

    On 14th oktober little Kinango has died, THE little elephant Orphan you met at Youre journey. Sad news, more sadness it that one of THE older independent orphans has died THE Same day, But she was poached….for THE asian market…she didn,t even had that big tusks. Every 15 minuten an elephants is killed for its tusks for THE asian market. They say it is religion and for art..what i know from god is that he loves every living creatures he created and men has THE job to take care of THE world…not destroying it. And what About THE story of Moses and his followers who building an golden statue….read THE bible to remember god,s reaction….god doen,t care About material and expensive things certainly not when lifes are destroyed for Please Yao you can play an important role against ivory trade and against poaching for THE demand otherwise there Will be no living creatures such As Rhino , elephants, tigers,etc. , please help to aware THE asian people. Let them make art on building materials. Help close ivory factory, s please help, you have seen THE need to stop killing elephants and rhinos, you have seen it with you,re own eyes, you know THE importency of THE situation. Please help us, all THE people who really care About a living world Thank you very much, in name of all Our 267members

    Tamara Sprenkeling , member of facebooks ; THE wildlife guardians

    Verstuurd vanaf mijn iPad

    Op 5 sep. 2012 om 23:32 heeft Yao’s Journey to Africa het volgende geschreven:

    > >

    October 23, 2012 at 6:51 am

  7. you’re so kind for doing this and getting to word out. thank you and hope your journeys bring you as much joy. this is the most respectable thing i’ve seen a celebrity do in so long, much respect, safe travels.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:31 am

  8. Keryn

    Yao thanks so much for all your work in raising awareness on of the devastating poaching onslaught on rhino and elephant in Africa, and how this is being fueled by demand by some mostly in Vietnam and China. We hope you can also engage other prominent Chinese hero’s to join you in raising such awareness, and in getting out the message that it is NOT cool to buy the products of such wild and endangered animals, killed in this unsustainable manner to feed the greed of criminal dealers and speculators.

    March 6, 2013 at 12:02 am

  9. Yao, I just found your blog! Thank you for your important work. Rhinos are majestic and almost magical. The slaughter is appalling.

    I discovered many fascinating things about rhinos, rhino veterinary, poaching, the rescue of rhinos orphaned due to the poaching when I was writing Zuri—the word means “beautiful” in Swahili. What shocked me almost more than anything else was learning that the illicit trade in wildlife is third only to that in drugs and weapons. Third! Astonishing.

    September 22, 2013 at 5:53 am

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