Yao swears off shark's fin soup in wildlife campaign

BEIJING -- Yao Ming pledged Wednesday to give up eating shark's fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, as part of a campaign to promote wildlife protection in his homeland.

"Endangered species are our friends," Yao said at a news conference organized by the San Francisco-based conservation group WildAid.

The group said China is the world's biggest importer of shark's fins, which conservationists say are cut from sharks that are thrown back into the ocean to die. WildAid put the worldwide trade in shark's fins at 10,000 tons a year.

"As the human population increases, many wildlife species are decreasing, and the primary reason is that humans fail to treat animals as friends," said Yao, who played for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team before moving to the Houston Rockets.

The campaign promotes the protection of animals besides sharks. A Chinese television commercial shown at Yao's news conference features him leaping from a basketball court to block a bullet fired at an elephant.