This week, eight-time NBA All-Star Yao Ming joins host Mike Walters in Full Frame’s New York City studio to talk about his career, his role in bridging the culture gap between the United States and China, and his work as an animal activist.
While the 7’ 6” Yao is probably most well-known for his feats on the court playing center for the Houston Rockets, his greatest achievements extend beyond his performance on the court. In many ways, the moment Yao was selected as the number one NBA draft, he became an ambassador for China.
Yao Ming uses his influence as an animal activistNBA great Yao Ming is maximizing his international influence as an animal activist, joining Wildaid in 2006 to give up shark fin soup and, more recently, to end the ivory and rhino horn trade. In “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming,” Animal Planet follows Yao as he investigates the brutal and systematic poaching of endangered rhinos and elephants in Africa.
At a recent US-China relations conference, former NBA Commissioner David Stern reflected upon Yao’s newfound role after being drafted, “…All of a sudden, Americans were going to learn more about China than they knew in other ways through Yao Ming. And he took to that responsibility. And in an interesting way through television our Chinese fans were going to learn more about America through Yao Ming.”
Through his role as a cultural and sports ambassador, Yao has not only worked to promote basketball, education, and wellness through the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, but he has also contributed to a number of humanitarian causes, raising money for underprivileged children in China and donating to relief work in the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Now, Yao is maximizing his international influence as an animal activist, joining Wildaid in 2006 to give up shark fin soup and, more recently, to end the ivory and rhino horn trade. In “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming,” Animal Planet follows Yao as he investigates the brutal and systematic poaching of endangered rhinos and elephants in Africa. The ivory trade has seen a revival in recent years, driven in large part by growing demand from Chinese consumers whose newfound wealth has created a growing market for luxury goods, including ivory — a traditional symbol of wealth and prosperity in Asian cultures.
“For the record that’s nearly 30,000- 33,000 elephants being killed every year, per year,” Yao said.
“And you think of it is one elephant every 15 minutes. When we’re talking maybe there’s a life lost already in Africa. That’s how quick it is and with that number the entire elephants will be wiped out in a decade.”
The documentary seeks to convey the brutality of poaching to consumers in graphic form, showing ravaged elephant carcasses and a rhino that had been gruesomely attacked for its horn while still alive.
“When the poachers take the horn down even when the animal is still alive, I mean, I can’t do it,” Yao said. “I just feel that we lost our humanity there. I always think if I buy some—any animal product—here in the states or in China, whatever, [it] is equal to supporting the bullets for the poacher to go back in.”
To learn more about Yao Ming’s work with elephant and rhino poaching visit WildAid, and also check out past Full Frame interviews with actress Kristin Davis and conservationist Grace Ge Gabriel, who are also working to raise awareness and end the ivory trade.
Follow Yao Ming on Twitter to learn more about his work: @YaoMing