World-famous basketball star Yao Ming, WildAid and Discovery Channel
In partnership with basketball superstar Yao Ming and WildAid, Discovery Channel announces the premiere of SAVING AFRICA’S GIANTS WITH YAO MING, which looks at the worldwide crisis of elephant and rhino poaching. The one-hour feature documentary – narrated by award-winning actor Edward Norton – premieres on .
Background on the crisis and the demand that fuels it
Each year, the death toll rises with 25,000 African elephants murdered last year alone, and 4.5 million killed in the last 60 years. These magnificent creatures are victims of ivory poaching, perpetrated by one of the most organized, widespread wildlife trafficking networks in history. The growing demand in China and Southeast Asia is driving sharp increases in poaching. In China, ivory is prized as a status symbol by the nation’s growing affluent and middle classes, and the country’s legal market perpetuates demand and provides a laundering mechanism for illegal, poached ivory from Africa. Rhino horn is highly sought after for purported health benefits. In Vietnam, rhino horn has a reputation as a cancer treatment and a hangover cure regardless of the fact that the horn is composed of keratin – the same substance as human hair and fingernails.
Fortunately, Africa's giants have their defenders. Basketball legend and wildlife advocate Yao Ming travels to Africa in to uncover the brutal secrets of this multi-million-dollar underground trade, and spotlights Yao's mission to educate and inspire his countrymen and the world alike, in the effort to stop the killings and save these innocent creatures from the very real possibility of extinction. Yao’s combination of strength, vision and voice serves as a megaphone to help spread awareness about the cruelty of poaching.
Yao Ming represents the next generation of conservationists. Having him as an ambassador is probably the best thing that could happen to wildlife," says Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, the world's only organization focused on reducing the demand for poached products. On his journey, Yao sees for himself the evidence of a losing battle, where Africa's giants are senselessly slain for their tusks. Yao, who is a cultural icon in both his native China and across the globe, quickly realizes the real war is not in Africa but in the marketplace.
In the program, Yao travels to Kenya, home to the ancient Samburu people and a natural habitat of African elephants. Elephants are part of the Samburu heritage and are critical to their livelihood. Poaching not only destroys the wild species but also the tribal villagers who depend on them. Yao meets with Sir Iain Douglas-Hamilton, renowned elephant expert who echoes WildAid's dire conservation message, which he urges Yao to bring home and disseminate globally: it is a race against time for these elephants – when the buying stops, the killing will too.
"The huge price motivates poachers to persist," says Yao. "And if we buy ivory, it makes all of us killers as well."
Unfortunately, elephants are not the only victims to poaching. Rhinos are poached for their horns at a record rate as two rhinos a day are slain in South Africa alone. Yao travels to the Kariega Game Reserve, located at South Africa's East Cape, to experience the struggle and pain of orphaned rhinos, whose parents have been killed.
"When our message is spread by those who see this documentary, people can join us and hopefully wipe out this black market," says Yao.
To play a part in saving elephants and rhinos from possible extinction, make a donation or sign the pledge against purchasing or consuming products made from endangered species at www.DiscoveryChannelAsia.com
 WildAid | Yao Ming Urges China to ‘Say No To Ivory and Rhino Horn’ With New Film. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wildaid.org/news/yao-ming-urges-china-%E2%80%98say-no-ivory-and-rhino-horn%E2%80%99-new-film. [Accessed 24 October 2014].