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Conservation

Kung Fu Panda’s Po joins fight to save wild animals from extinction alongside the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jackie Chan

David Beckham and Yao Ming, actress Lupita Nyong’o, Chan and DiCaprio, and now Po Ping, are ambassadors for WildAid campaigns against the illegal trade in animal parts, from ivory to rhino horn, tiger bone and shark fins

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 6:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 6:17pm

Po Ping, the plump hero of DreamWorks’s hugely popular Kung Fu Panda franchise, has joined the global fight animal poaching and the illegal trade in animal parts as an ambassador for the conversation organisation WildAid.

San Francisco-based WildAid, along with other conservation organisations, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), warn that certain animal species are in danger of becoming extinct if the killing of them does not stop soon.

WildAid’s campaign featuring Po aim to reach people who buy illicit animal parts such as elephant ivory, rhino horns, and lion and tiger bones, and shark fins.

“The big guys need our help,” says Po in one advertisement, in which he poses beside an elephant. “Tell your friends and relatives never to buy ivory.”

In China, the ivory trade has been a hot topic, with the country banning ivory sales this year and with Hong Kong’s Legislative Council voting to phase out ivory sales by 2021. Historically, Hong Kong has been the world’s largest market for ivory. The value of ivory sales in the city is unknown, but the trade is worth US$19 billion globally, and leads to the killing of some 30,000 elephants, each year.

Po will appear in film advertisements and TV spots, as well as on billboards and posters across parts of Asia, Africa, and the United States.

Jackie Chan, Yao Ming back ad campaign against illegal wildlife trade

Here are five other celebrities who have lent their names and effort to the WildAid cause:

Lupita Nyong’o

Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o joined WildAid in 2015 as the organisation’s global elephant ambassador. Growing up in Nairobi instilled in her a deep respect for animals – she often sang songs in school about saving the elephants. Nyong’o catapulted to fame with her Oscar-winning breakout performance in 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, which she followed up with roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Jungle Book, and most recently Black Panther.

Her role with WildAid took her back to her Kenya to visit elephant sanctuaries, where hundreds of orphaned elephants are raised and reintegrated into the wild. Her launch in Kenya of an anti-poaching campaign coincided with the Kenyan Wildlife Services’ burning of more than 100 tonnes of poached ivory, a show of the government’s zero-tolerance policy towards the trade.

Yao Ming

Eight-time NBA all-star and president of the China Basketball Association, Yao Ming joined WildAid in 2006 when he signed a high-profile pledge to stop eating shark-fin soup.

Yao has appeared in many advertisements on behalf of the organisation, often targeting audiences in China, where ivory is used in handicrafts and rhino horn is used in traditional medicines. Yao also starred in WildAid’s The End of the Wild documentary, which depicted the impact of poaching on species across the planet.

Last year, the super-tall superstar (he’s 2.29 metres, or 7 feet 6 inches, tall) advocated for the ban on ivory sales that China subsequently decreed.

Jackie Chan

The international martial arts star whose stunts, kicks and comedy have graced over 150 films has been active in numerous charity and conservation efforts for much of his career. With mass appeal across Asia and much of the world, Chan has starred in video campaigns for WildAid, including ones advocating the protection of sharks and rhinos.

Chan also served as the face of WildAid’s “Kung Fu Pangolin” campaign – which brought attention to the poaching of endangered pangolins for their meat and scales.

Leonardo DiCaprio

The Oscar winner and six-time Academy Award nominee is a dedicated campaigner for environmental and animal-protection causes. Riding the fame from 1997’s Titanic, DiCaprio launched a foundation in his name in 1998 dedicated to protecting and restoring endangered wild habitats.

He has since lent his time, fame and money to dozens of conservation groups, in addition to producing, writing and narrating two of his own documentaries, The 11th Hour in 2007 and Beyond The Flood on the National Geographic Channel in 2017, which both focus on the impacts of human activity on the environment and animal species.

He used his Oscar acceptance speech in 2016 to speak out against climate change.

David Beckham

During a career with soccer teams including Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Los Angeles Galaxy, David Beckham devoted a lot of his time away from the pitch to charities and organisations such as Unicef, for which he participated in the Sports for Development, Unite the Children and United Against Aids campaigns.

For WildAid, Beckham has teamed up with Britain’s Prince William and Yao Ming to bring global awareness to conservation issues, including rhino, shark and elephant poaching.