Former NBA basketball star Yao Ming recently set aside family time to save endangered sea turtles with non-profit organization Sea Turtles 911 and Hainan Normal University.
Much like on the basketball court, Yao displayed finesse with his soft touch around the shell as he gently released the rescued green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) into the ocean waters while his four-year-old daughter gave the animals a heartfelt wave good-bye.
“I think it’s very important to raise awareness in our country about protecting wild animals and passing it on to our next generation like my daughter,” said Yao.
Releasing rehabilitated turtles has been a major conservation strategy for Sea Turtles 911 in their mission to save sea turtles from extinction. Early this year, the organization released several rescued hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) with government officials from the United States and China, in a public event at the Ritz Carlton Sanya to expand conservation education and outreach efforts. By giving local people the rare opportunity to witness the beauty of marine turtles returning to their ocean home, Sea Turtles 911 raises awareness, underscoring the importance of turtles to the environment.
As the Founder of Sea Turtles 911, Frederick Yeh, said, “In those moments of watching a marine turtle swim for freedom back to nature, people grow mindful of how breathtaking sea turtles are within the vast ocean expanse, and this blissful experience leads them to an epiphany that turtles belong in the wild, and not in the market.”
The NBA basketball superstar-turned-environmentalist Yao Ming has been a leading voice in China to end the market for illegal wildlife products. Raising awareness for sea turtle conservation is just one way Yao continues to combat wildlife trafficking, as he has also dedicated extensive time campaigning for the ban of elephant ivory, rhino horn, and shark fin soup with his renowned public message: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
His participation in the turtle rescue effort is significant, as China remains the top consumer of endangered turtles worldwide.
With the oceans in environmental turmoil, and teeming with poachers who sell endangered turtles as food and products made from their shells, sea turtle releases to raise awareness have become a cornerstone for the marine conservation movement in China.
As illegal wildlife trade continues to deplete the remaining representatives of this ancient and gentle reptilian species, Yao Ming said with renewed hope, “We have to work together to convince more people to join our journey to reach a beautiful future.”