Entries in Yao Ming (2)


Yao Ming Now Big Man in Shanghai Politics

China Photos/Getty Images(SHANGHAI) -- When news broke that Chinese NBA superstar Yao Ming was planning to hang up his jersey last summer after a persistent injury got the better of his on-court career, his former also-newly retired-rival Shaquille O’Neal welcomed him.

But since leaving professional basketball in July, Yao has become a force in Shanghai. He has gone back to school, launched a high-end wine label, released pandas into the wild and, just this past weekend, been elected onto a political advisory committee in his hometown of Shanghai.

The 31-year-old took his place on Sunday at Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Shanghai Committee’s annual meeting alongside six other newly elected members who were all almost twice his age. Among his new colleagues were the directors of the Shanghai Library and the Shanghai Tourism Bureau. Yao is the youngest and, at 7-foot-6, the tallest member of the 142-person committee.

Even in retirement, Yao Ming is still one of the most famous men in China. Organizations and Yao himself are seemingly eager to use his influential capital while the going is still good.

“Yao said the new title shows trust coming from the people in the city,” Yao spokesman Zhang Chi told the China Daily. Zhang denied that Yao harbored any political aspirations.

“The responsibilities for a CPPCC member include offering political consultation, and supervision. What Yao wants is to use his influence to do good deeds for society, but not to seek a political position,” Zhang said.

With the new job Yao is expected to attend regular meetings and offer suggestions or written proposals to the local government.

Yao will have to juggle this new political job with a fulltime gig at Shanghai’s prestigious Jiao Tong University -- albeit though through custom, private one-on-one degree program -- and his commitments as owner of Shanghai’s professional basketball team, The Sharks, for which he used to play.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Panda Conservations Project Enlists Ex-NBA Star

China Photos/Getty Images(DUJIANGYAN, China) -- The Chinese city of Dujiangyan Wednesday hosted two of China’s most iconic treasures -- the Giant Panda and former NBA basketball player Yao Ming.

Yao Ming was chosen to inaugurate a new protected area called Panda Valley, which Chinese conservationists hope will provide select pandas the tools they need to assimilate back into the wild. It is the latest attempt to give the notoriously difficult-to-breed species a leg up. Six young pandas were selected for the “wildlife training.” They’ll continue to get food and water from human caretakers, but they’ll be gradually eased into independent living. At least, that’s what scientists hope.

Giant pandas are one of those animal species for whom humanity is both a curse and a blessing. Urban development has led to devastating habitat loss (pandas need literally tons of bamboo to feed). But the innate evolutionary disadvantages of pandas have been helped by human intervention, in the form of artificial insemination. They do have one critical advantage that may have kept them alive longer than nature intended.

Giant pandas are irresistibly adorable. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into their preservation. It costs a million dollars a year just for a foreign zoo to borrow one (all Giant Pandas are the official property of the Chinese government). And everywhere they go, they are the star attraction. When the famed Wolong Preserve was damaged in a 2008 earthquake, international attention quickly turned to the fate of the prized pandas.

So it is no surprise that $4.75 million has been invested so far in this latest pet project. Only six hand-selected, hearty young panda pioneers will be introduced initially to the enclosure, but researchers hope to expand those numbers. The goal is reportedly to eventually release 100 pandas into the wild over the next fifty years, after they’ve undergone survival training. According to the government-run China Daily, the pandas will be allowed to forage and feed freely in the enclosure. But it’s unclear how effective such a program will be.

Introducing captive-bred animals into the wild remains a holy grail to conservationists, but doing so is extremely difficult. With pandas in particular, the challenges loom large. Out of ten pandas that have been released into the wild since 1983, only two are still living in the wild. Six were brought back to the preserve for medical reasons, and two are believed to have died. It’s not yet clear how this reserve equips pandas better for the wild than the Wolong Preserve, which also offers pandas a semi-wild environment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio