Thursday was Yao’s 33rd birthday, and he spent his day filming part of a public service announcement (PSA) in London with Prince William and David Beckham to campaign against illegal wildlife products.
The messages will be broadcast globally in November but their target audiences are in China and Vietnam, countries which have large markets for products like rhino horn and ivory.
David Beckham told reporters:
“When I learned of the current poaching levels in Africa, I immediately agreed to help get this message out.
“It is shocking to think that we could lose these animals from the wild in our lifetimes.”
“We must reduce demand if we are going to save these animals.
“We made tremendous progress reducing demand for shark fin soup through a similar campaign and a government ban at banquets is also helping.
“Traders say shark fin demand has been cut by 50% or more. I hope we can do the same for ivory and rhino horn.”
Prince William later said at a conservation awards dinner:
“It is unfathomable to imagine a world in which children who have been born in the past couple of months may grow up in a world in which rhinoceros have ceased to live in the wild.
“The possibility of extinction is bad enough for one of our children growing up here in the West, who will never experience the magic of seeing a rhino; or even for my own little George, who Catherine and I very much hope to introduce to east Africa – a place we know and love – in the fullness of time.
“But for a child growing up in Africa and whose birth-right and economic inheritance these creatures are, it is nothing more than immoral that he or she may never experience what his parents and grandparents knew and treasured.””
A WildAid spokesman cited some alarming statistics:
“The ivory trade claims the lives of an estimated 25,000 elephants annually and according to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, as of September 5 at least 618 rhinos were killed for their horns in 2013, which may break last year’s record of 668 poached rhinos later this month.”
After the filming in London, Yao flew to Kenya to continue filming PSAs for WildAid.
A couple of weeks prior, Yao and his wife Ye Li participated in another public service event when he attended the premiere of a short film that they appeared in to warn the public against driving under the influence of alcohol. Click here for photos from the event.
The film was produced by the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau Traffic Police Corps, Chinese Wine Association and Anheuser-Busch InBev together.
AB InBev in a statement describes the film as, “Riding a light, humorous tone, the film tells how Yao, who plays the role of a designated driver, has to deal with a series of bad consequences from outsourcing his job on his wedding anniversary.”
What impressed Yao about his wife Ye Li in the film was not her acting ability, but the fact that she looks so great wearing makeup in the film, which she rarely has to do in her everyday life.
Yao said, “She looks gorgeous.”
Click here to see the short film.