Teen activist calls on Yao Ming to help her save tuskers

Activist's campaign has attracted attention in schools and groups around the world

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 5:33am

A local teenage activist is planning to rope celebrity basketball star Yao Ming into her campaign to save elephants from poachers.

Fourteen-year-old Celia Ho Yen-kei's campaign began with a letter to the South China Morning Post last year in which she pleaded with countries worldwide to stop killing the endangered species for their tusks.

Her letter caught the attention of Christian Pilard, founder and president of Eco-Sys Action Foundation.

Soon, the Form Three student with the help of the NGO had set up a website and sent letters to schools and organisations around the world in a bid to raise people's awareness about the illegal ivory trade.

The young activist's campaign is supported by 58 organisations and 26 schools, including those in Kenya, Uganda, India, Cambodia and the United States. They will help disseminate Ho's videos, posters and articles against the trade.

Her action has also attracted international attention. She was interviewed by National Geographic last month and her story will soon be told on BBC as well.

Among Ho's plans to increase global awareness of the illegal trade includes asking Yao to help spread the message in China, which is regarded as the biggest market for the tusks.

"Yao Ming has always been very active and a keen supporter of the elephants," said Ho.

"I think getting him involved would send a message to [young] people in China that they can help … by being united against [the illegal trade] and telling their parents and friends not to buy ivory.

"If there is far less demand, then there will be far fewer elephants killed," she said.

The teen said spreading awareness of the plight of the animals was very important to her as she believed most buyers did not know about the cruelty behind the trade.

"Each tusk is rooted in the gum of the elephants. Poachers have to pry open their flesh to get the whole tusk," said Ho. This meant that the poachers would have to kill the animals, she said.

From last October to January, officials in Hong Kong made three large seizures of ivory tusks, which would have been obtained by killing at least 800 elephants.

Pilard praised Ho for being a great example that young people could effect change in the world.

He said the teenage activist remained independent in her campaign as Eco-Sys Action only provided her with contacts, information and advice.

"Celia meeting Yao Ming would send a powerful message that children are serious about saving elephants and other species," Pilard said.