This Thursday, February 14th, former NBA Star and Chinese icon, Yao Ming, will be in Houston with conservation organization, WildAid, visiting the Houston Zoo with local school children to educate them about the importance of wildlife conservation. Yao will be leading a group on a special tour beginning at 2 PM PST, to meet the elephants and other endangered species, as well as previewing his upcoming documentary on the crisis for elephants and rhinos.
Yao has led the world’s largest conservation awareness program working with WildAid to educate the public in China on the threats to wildlife, with the message, “when the buying stops, the killing can too.” Yao, together with dozens of Chinese and international celebrities, has helped reached hundreds of millions of Chinese supported by hundreds of millions of dollars of donated media placement.
WildAid’s shark campaign has been highly successful. In July of 2012, the Chinese government announced it would remove shark fin soup from the menus of government banquets over the next three years. In January of 2013, The South China Morning Post reported that the Hong Kong Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association chairman found, “The whole industry has recorded a [sales] decrease of 50 per cent on last year. [The decline] is mainly due to omnipresent advocacy by green groups.” This decline is backed by data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, which reports that shark fin imports have been reduced from 10,292 tonnes in 2011 to 3,087 tonnes, last year.
The People’s Daily also reported a 70% decline in shark fin soup consumption at high-end hotels on February 1, 2013.
In August 2012, Yao Ming took his first trip to Africa with WildAid, seeing poached elephants and rhinos first hand. He also met villagers whose livelihoods and education depend on income from wildlife tourism.
Yao stated, “When people in China know what’s happening to these animals they want to do the right thing. By not consuming shark fin, they have literally saved the lives of millions of sharks. We went to Africa to tell the story of the elephants and rhinos and we hope consumers will react in the same way.”
Zoo Director, Rick Barongi said, “The Houston Zoo is excited to team up with Yao Ming and WildAid in the fight to save Africa’s critically endangered elephants and rhinos. By inviting local school children to join Yao on a special tour to meet our own elephant and rhino ambassadors, we hope to educate and inspire young minds and hearts to help stop the senseless slaughter of these incredible animals.”
WildAid Executive Director, Peter Knights said “China is crucial to the survival of many species and we believe with Yao’s leadership we can help create a sea change in attitudes around wildlife and ensure the survival of sharks, elephants, and rhinos.”
Yao’s visit to Houston is set around the 2013 NBA All-Star game. WildAid launches a campaign with NBA Cares on March 3rd. As well as supporting conservation, the Yao Ming Foundation also focuses on helping educate children. Yao owns and manages the Shanghai Sharks basketball team and has developed Yao Family Wines.
WildAid is the only organization to focus on reducing the demand for wildlife products with the strong and simple message: when the buying stops, the killing can too. WildAid works with Asian and Western celebrities and business leaders to dissuade people from purchasing wildlife products via public service announcements and educational initiatives, reaching up to one billion people per week in China alone. For more information, please visit www.wildaid.org.