Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thanks to WildAid

Houston, Texas (February 13, 2013) – 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.

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About WildAid:
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

Footage and stills are available. Additionally, appearances are available for request.

Zach Weismann, 415-834-3174,

About the Yao Ming Foundation:
The Yao Ming Foundation was established in June of 2008, by international NBA Star Yao Ming, in response to the devastating 8.0 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China on May 12, 2008.  More than 8,000 schoolrooms and 185 schools were destroyed during the earthquake. The Yao Ming Foundation has committed to rebuilding five schools in the earthquake region. The Yao Ming Foundation also supports additional educational opportunities in the US and China.

Yao Ming is also currently the owner of the Shanghai Sharks, a professional basketball team in China.

In November 2011, Yao Ming announced the establishment of his new Napa Valley wine company: Yao Family Wines. The company released its inaugural wine under the brand name Yao Ming®. Yao Family Wines appointed Pernod Ricard (China) as its sole and exclusive importer and distributor of the Yao Ming® wines in mainland China.

About the Houston Zoo:
Founded in 1922, the Houston Zoo is an exciting live animal adventure that provides a unique educational and conservation resource serving more than 1.9 million guests annually.  Set in a 55-acre lush tropical landscape, the Zoo is home to more than 6,000 exotic animals representing more than 800 species.  Operated by the not-for-profit Houston Zoo, Inc., the Houston Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species, the provision of engaging educational opportunities and the creation of stimulating exhibits that broaden the experiences of our guests and encourage their curiosity.

Editor’s Notes:

Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used every year to make shark fin soup and related food products. Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice – captured at sea and hauled on deck, the sharks are often still alive while their fins are sliced off. Because shark meat is not considered as valuable as the fins, the maimed animals are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) estimates that 1/3 of the world’s pelagic shark species are threatened with extinction, with certain species experiencing declines of over 90%.

Global trade bans enacted in 1989 (ivory ban) and 1993 (rhino sales bans) resulted in both rhino and elephant populations increasing steadily until the dramatic resurgence of poaching in 2008. According to a 2011 survey conducted by IFAW, “Elephant poaching levels are the worst in a decade and recorded ivory seizures are at their highest levels since 1989.” In South Africa alone, two rhinos are being killed every day, as rhino populations have declined 95% worldwide over the past 40 years.-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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