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Photography: Kristian Schmidt/WildAid
Premiering this Tuesday on Animal Planet, Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming doesn’t flinch from showing the mutilation perpetrated by poachers of ivory and rhino horn. But it also offers hope in the form of animal survivors of black market profiteers, and the people committed to rescuing them. Using the wattage of his global stardom to shine a light on the scandal of wildlife trafficking, basketball icon Yao Ming hosts the documentary. Here, we pose questions to Peter Knights, executive director of the nonprofit WildAid, which advocates an end to the illegal wildlife trade; WildAid co-produced the program.
Is there an argument beyond the ethical that, as the film states, a living elephant is worth more than its ivory, and a living rhino worth more than its horn?
Elephants and rhinos are the star attraction for a tourism industry that brings in much-needed income to the countries that are home to these animals. This tourism is important for the tax base, and supports local community development and helps pay for schools and hospitals. These iconic wild animals are crucial to the countries’ economies.
How effective is dehorning rhinos as a deterrent against poaching?
Sadly, not very. Poachers have been known to still kill rhinos for the stump, or to kill dehorned rhinos so they don’t waste their time tracking them in the future.
How difficult is it to discourage the long-standing use of ivory and of rhino horn, particularly in China?
China already has a ban on rhino horn for traditional medicine, and that should be extended to all trade. A ban on the legal sale of ivory could be the biggest single step taken to reduce poaching, and we hope that China will rise to the challenge and be a global leader. That’s why we’re asking people to go to IvoryFree.org and to take the Ivory Free pledge to never buy or accept ivory, and to encourage their governments to enact stronger domestic bans on the ivory trade.