In between his blockbuster movie releases, Po, the Kung Fu Panda, is busy championing endangered species as part of the world’s largest-ever wildlife conservation awareness program. Just in time for World Lion Day and World Elephant Day, he joins Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince William, David Beckham, Lupita Nyong’o and many others as a wildlife ambassador with WildAid.
In a series of video messages and billboards produced by DreamWorks Animation and WildAid, Po proclaims, “poaching steals from us all,” as he helps defend elephants who are killed for their ivory, rhinos for their horns, lions and tigers for their bones and skins, and pangolins for their scales and meat.
Over the last 50 years, the number of wild lions across Africa has fallen from 200,000 to an estimated 20,000. The decline is largely due to habitat loss from agricultural expansion and increased human settlement in the savannah landscape. This has, in turn, led to more frequent interactions between lions and humans, often resulting in lion fatalities.
Meanwhile, at the height of the recent poaching epidemic, up to 33,000 elephants were killed each year in Africa. An estimated 420,000 remain in the wild today, reduced from a population of 1.2 million in 1979. The African forest elephant in particular has suffered a drastic decline in its population, with 95% of the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo now devoid of elephants.
Po helps remind us that the “big guys” still need our help.
“Children love animals and they are quick to see the injustice of what is happening to them through wildlife trafficking. They can be very influential in pushing older generations to change their bad habits. We’ve seen children persuade grandparents to stop eating shark fin soup or using rhino horn.” said Peter Knights, WildAid CEO.
WildAid will distribute Po’s messages at movie theaters, on TV, on video screens in taxis, hospitals, banks and shopping centers, and via billboards, print and social media in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Africa, the US and globally with the aim of educating millions about the urgent threats these animals face due to poaching and the illegal trade in their parts.
WildAid’s campaigns have helped to reduce demand for ivory, rhino horn and shark fin over the past decade. China banned ivory sales at the beginning of 2018 and prices had previously dropped by 2/3 with poaching rates already decreasing dramatically in Kenya and Tanzania. WildAid’s ivory campaign in China helped increase public awareness about the elephant poaching crisis and the ivory trade by over 50% in its first two years. Over 95% of Chinese surveyed support the government’s action to end the ivory trade. In addition to mainland China, the US, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam have enacted or begun enacting domestic ivory bans. Japan is the last remaining active ivory market that has yet to announce a domestic ban.
In the last three years the price of rhino horn has fallen from $65,000 per kilo to around $22,000 per kilo and in Vietnam rhino horn sales have been banned while awareness about rhino horn has increased significantly since 2014: a 2016 survey conducted by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and CHANGE in Vietnam showed that just 23% of respondents believe rhino horn has medical effects compared with 69% in 2014, a 67% decline. Only 9.4% of respondents believe rhino horn can cure cancer, down from 34.5% in 2014, a 73% decline. Knowledge that rhino horn is composed of substances found in hair and fingernails – the message of WildAid’s Nail Biters campaign – increased drastically from 19% in 2014 to 68% in 2016 – a 258% increase.
Shark fin imports to China fell by 80% during 2011-2014 and wholesale shark fin sales in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou declined by the same amount between 2010 and 2014. Similarly, the prices of wholesale shark fins declined by 50-67%. In a survey last year, 93% of urban Chinese said they had not consumed shark fin in the past 6 years. Nearly 80% had seen WildAid campaign messages and 98.8% agreed that the messages successfully raised awareness about shark protection and the need to reject shark fin consumption. In addition to changing consumer attitudes, WildAid has been instrumental in convincing dozens of airlines and shipping companies not to transport shark fins, as well as restaurants and hotel chains not to serve shark fin soup.
WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages nearly $230 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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