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Yao Ming Aims to Save Elephants

Simon Denyer | THE WASHINGTON POST   in 
September 7, 2014

BEIJING — As a shy, nervous 22-year-old NBA rookie, Yao Ming confronted the concentrated power of Shaquille O’Neal for the first time — and came out a winner.

Now, more than a decade later and long retired from the game, the former Houston Rockets star faces a challenge perhaps as daunting as it is radically different: to wean the Chinese nation off its love of ivory and save Africa’s dwindling elephant population.

In the past three years alone, about 100,000 elephants have been poached for their tusks, according to a new study: a mass slaughter propelled by an ever-rising Chinese demand for ivory to supply an ever-richer nation. Yet the player once nicknamed the “Great Wall of China” aims to stop that flood through the power of persuasion.


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