Former NBA basketball star Yao Ming (C) and his WildAid campaign on the ivory ban. (Photo provided to CGTN)
"When the buying stops, the killing can too."
That's one of the key slogans in Yao Ming's WildAid campaign against the killing of sharks, elephants, and rhinos. As China's most iconic celebrity, the former NBA basketball star and current chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, has been a champion of animal rights and wildlife protection for 12 years now.
China's New Year law banning the commercial sale and processing of all raw ivory comes into effect on Monday, and Yao Ming talked about what this monumental move means to him in an exclusive interview with CGTN.
In 2014, Yao Ming led a major advertising campaign with WildAid to try to get Chinese people to stop buying ivory. He even traveled to Kenya and South Africa to learn more about the poaching crisis and made a documentary called "The End of the Wild."
But his journey as a WildAid ambassador really began in 2006, with his hugely successful campaign against the consumption of shark fin soup. Just two years after he swore to never eat shark fin soup again, consumption in China reportedly decreased by 50-70 percent.
In the interview, Yao Ming said that China's ivory ban is a big step for the country, which is the biggest ivory market in the world. He said the ban shows China is committed to becoming a strong nation that is also socially responsible.
Over the last 40 years, the number of wild elephants has dropped from 1.3 million to just 350,000. According to WildAid, 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks. China's ivory ban will send a message that ivory is now taboo, and people must continually spread the message that the killing of elephants for their tusks is wrong.
"We are better than that," said Yao. "I believe in the good in people, and that if people know the facts, they will make the right decision."