David Beckham, Prince William and former basketball player Yao Ming have joined forces to combat illegal wildlife trade affecting rhinos and elephants.
The trio gathered in London Thursday to film two PSAs on illegal wildlife products, focusing on reducing demand for rhino horn and ivory. The PSAs will air globally with targeted outreach in China and Vietnam later this year as part of a campaign through WildAid and the Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife.
Peter Knights, WildAid executive director, met with Prince William last May at the End Wildlife Crime Conference in London. "We discussed the need to stop the demand for illegal wildlife products, and [Prince William] proposed the idea of enlisting Beckham," Knights told The Hollywood Reporter.
“When I learned of the current poaching levels in Africa, I immediately agreed to help get this message out,” said Beckham in a statement.
The Duke of Cambridge will be president of the new United for Wildlife organization, which brings together seven of the world’s most influential conservation organizations.
“Prince William and David Beckham are highly respected in Asia, where this message needs to be spread,” said Knights.
Ivory trade kills 25,000 elephants annually, and as of Sept. 5, at least 618 rhinos were killed for their horns this year, which is nearly more than the total rhinos poached last year. The issue is topical in Hollywood, as Warner Bros. has taken the lead on two antipoaching projects to be produced by Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
Yao, who's been a WildAid ambassador for years, also spearheaded a shark fin initiative and launched a “Say No to Ivory and Rhino Horn” campaign earlier this year in partnership with African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants. “We made tremendous progress reducing demand for shark fin soup through a similar campaign,” he explained. “I hope we can do the same for ivory and rhino horn.”
WildAid is the only organization solely focusing on reducing the demand for wildlife products and has worked with Jackie Chan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson to get the message out.
“One message is never enough in isolation. But as part of a long-term campaign, this trio will attract incredible attention to the issues, and that's what is needed,” said Knights.