The Chinese Government sends the right message to tourists visiting Africa


Frank Pope, COO

Date Published

In mid-September Yao Ming came back to Kenya to finish up the filming of his upcoming documentaries on elephants and rhinos. The 7’6” (2.28m) tall Chinese superstar launched his Ivory & Rhino Horn campaign in China earlier in the year, with partners WildAid & Save the Elephants.

While having dinner with Yao and his team in Nairobi, Yao’s manager pulled out his cellphone to show me something he thought would make me happy. I was expecting a photo of his son, or perhaps a video clip of a musical cat. In fact it was a simple text message, but one with great significance:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes you a safe journey,” it began. The message had arrived on his phone the moment he’d touched down in Nairobi and turned on his phone. “Please follow Kenyan law, do not carry illegal ivory, rhino horn, or any other wildlife products…”

There was some more, general advice such as ‘drive on the right’ and ‘remain polite’, but the true purpose of the text was reinforced again at the end:

“Reminder from the State Forestry Administration of China: Please do not participate in any illegal poaching activities. Do not acquire, purchase, use, possess or export any endangered species and related products, especially ivory, rhino horn and any Chinese medicine made of endangered species.”

The SMS campaign had been announced by Nairobi Embassy Counsellor Cao Xiaolin earlier in the month, alongside a gift of GPS units, binoculars and cameras to be used in the fight against poachers, and the fact that it is now in action shows China’s government stepping into a leadership role in tackling the ivory issue.