Kung Fu Panda is back in the 2nd film of the popular DreamWorks series and once again we get to follow the adventures of our favorite bamboo munching hero as he continues his quest to become a dragon warrior and (in this film) to find his birth parents so he can truly know who he is. While the movie premiere was quite a hit with stars Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Dennis Haysbert and Lucy Liu taking their turns on the red carpet, earlier in the week stars turned out to walk a “bamboo” carpet if you will.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, was feted Monday night at the 15th annual Global Conservation International dinner as a Global Conservation Hero. Fittingly, “Kung Fu Panda 2” served as the theme for the celebration. Why such a prestigious award for making a movie? Well, DreamWorks’ dedication to the endangered Giant Panda goes beyond the pixels on the screen.
In 2008, on the heels of the successful Kung Fu Panda film, DreamWorks made an investment in CI’s work in Sichuan, China, to help track, monitor and protect wild populations of endangered giant pandas. The funding for the Three-Year Panda Survival Plan served the humans in the province as well by supporting the basic needs of the people after the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Katzenberg received the award from CI Vice-Chairmen Harrison Ford. In accepting the award, he stated, “At DreamWorks Animation, we’ve become environmentally aware because we spend so much of our time trying to emulate nature. We know how many pixels are needed to make fur look realistic because the real thing is at our disposal.”
He added, “It will always be a challenge to match the beauty and splendor of our natural planet. Because of so many Conservation International projects, we can be confident that we won’t have to glimpse this splendor through emulation.”
Pandas aren’t only stars on-screen. Because they are universally loved and easily recognized, they have become a flagship species. According to Dr. Lu Zhi, director of the Shanshui Center for Nature & Society and one of the world’s foremost panda experts, “They [pandas] are iconic, and they’ve come to represent all threatened species. Saving the panda tests our determination. If we can’t protect the panda, then what chance do all the other threatened species have?”
While the panda’s own reproductive process creates a challenge (the female ovulates only once a year), the loveable bears also contend with the destruction of their habitats and feeding grounds. And not only does the deforestation affect the giant panda but it also contributes to climate change endangering us humans as well. The focus on consequences of environmental destruction to both the human and animal population is what makes CI unique – it works to build the relationship between both worlds to create a stronger force in defending Mother Earth.
This focus is evident in the Three Year Survival Plan for the Giant Pandas. According to their website:
“CI’s goal is nothing less than to halt the decline of the panda population, protect and revive the forests where they live, create mechanisms for local communities to support and benefit from conservation activities, and promote policy innovations by the Chinese government that provide better regulation of development and incentives for local protection.
Safeguarding the panda requires a comprehensive approach and a focused strategy for success. The CI plan for pandas involves the following efforts:
1. The Giant Panda Survival Plan – this comprehensive strategy consists of short- and long-term goals, reaching out as far as 200 years. Planned accomplishments include protecting 100 percent of known panda habitat, providing better protection programs to the reserves, developing at least 12 “conservation corridors” to connect habitats, and creating a comprehensive panda population monitoring plan.
2. The Panda Alliance – this impressive network of leading conservation groups, academics, government agencies, private corporations, and local communities will work to protect habitat, establish a panda guardian program, involve local communities, promote the benefits of panda conservation, and more.
3. Key Policy Promotion – through a partnership with Peking University, CI will support the launching of a policy center to provide government and business leaders with science-based data to inform their decisions, produce solution-oriented policy research, and facilitate collaboration in conservation.
4. Inspiring panda-lovers worldwide to take action – through effective working relationships with public and private-sector partners such as McDonald’s and DreamWorks, we’ll inform the public about the plight of the panda, and what they can do to help.
While the few pandas left in the world today face a challenging future, a renewed commitment to saving them provides new optimism. Through the combined efforts of government, science, corporations, and people who care, pandas can survive for future generations to enjoy.”
So get your popcorn buttered this weekend and enjoy the animated adventure and keep in mind that beyond the film, saving the giant panda can help save us all!