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Retired NBA star Yao Ming is using his international renown and domestic status as one of China's most recognizable public citizens to try to convince his fellow Chinese citizens to stop seeking products made from elephant ivory and rhino horn, hoping to curb the demand that fuels poaching in Africa and is helping bring Kenyan elephants and rhinos perilously close to extinction.
There are only seven northern white rhinos left in the world; four of them are housed at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is working with London-based nonprofit Save the Elephants and wildlife charity organization WildAid on the documentary project, tentatively titled "The End of the Wild." Yao became involved in the film through his work as one of several celebrity ambassadors for WildAid; he has already filmed a public service announcement for the organization in which he blocks a bullet headed for an elephant as if it were a layup.
Yao called seeing a dead, poached elephant 'a sight I will not soon forget.' (AP)That image might appear somewhat goofy, but Yao's commitment to speaking out against practices harmful to animals is serious; this isn't the first time he's done it. Last September, he joined billionaire Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson in entreating consumers, especially those in his homeland of China, to stop buying and eating shark fin soup, an in-demand delicacy that requires shark fins for its production, leading to fishermen catching sharks, cutting off their fins and ostensibly leaving them to die, wreaking havoc on underseas ecosystems.