The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is joining WildAid, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and AZA’s program, the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA), in a campaign featuring DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda’s Master Po Ping to educate children and families about the illegal wildlife trade. The OKC Zoo is one of more than fifteen AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums across the United States that will host a series of video messages, billboards, and posters at its facility as well as on social media.
Po, the protagonist of DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda franchise, 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. He helps remind us that the “big guys” still need our help. The campaign will be ongoing throughout 2019.
“We’re very excited to partner with AZA and WTA to educate millions of youth and families about the poaching crisis,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. “Through this partnership, we can inspire the next generation of conservationists who can help end the illegal wildlife trade.”
Wildlife crime is a multi-billion dollar global industry primarily driven by consumer demand for products made from animal parts. The United States is home to one of the largest illegal wildlife markets in the world. In 2016, a WildAid public opinion survey found that 80 percent of Americans polled consider themselves wildlife lovers or conservationists. Yet, four out of five knew little or nothing about wildlife trafficking.
Over the last 50 years, the number of wild lions across Africa has fallen from 200,000 to an estimated 20,000. 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.
“AZA-accredited facilities are leaders in conservation, with a vision of a world where all people respect, value and conserve wildlife and wild places,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “By partnering with WildAid on this campaign, we are calling attention to the serious problem of illegal wildlife trade affecting vulnerable species. By strategically leveraging our assets together, we can educate thousands of zoo and aquarium visitors about this critical issue.”
“The new campaign with WildAid is an exciting example of how the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance will continue to expand its partnership opportunities that raise awareness about wildlife trafficking, reduce poaching, and directly benefit critical wildlife populations around the world,” said Sara Walker, Senior Advisor on Wildlife Trafficking at AZA. “Only by joining together can we reduce—and eventually end—the scourge of wildlife trafficking.”
“The OKC Zoo is committed to conservation education and this partnership will help convey the importance of protecting the planet’s wildlife and wild places to a new generation,” said OKC Zoo Chief Marketing Officer Greg Heanue. “WildAid, AZA and DreamWorks understand how critical stopping the illegal wildlife trade is to the protection of endangered species. We are proud to support this effort.”