NBA star Yao Ming pledged yesterday to give up eating shark's fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, as he joined a campaign to promote wildlife protection.
"Endangered species are our friends," Yao said at a news conference organized by the London-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 tonnes 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.
A conservation advertising campaign featuring Yao includes other wildlife as well as sharks.
A television commercial shown at Yao's news conference featured him jumping up from a basketball court to block a bullet fired at an elephant.
Meanwhile, Yao says he is mostly recovered from a foot injury and is very likely to play for China in this month's World Championship in Japan, a report said yesterday.
"Now I am 80 percent OK," Yao was quoted as saying in an interview with the official newspaper China Daily.
"I think the recovery has been quite good and better than we expected," said Yao, interviewed in Beijing where he has been working on his rehabilitation.
The 2.29m Yao broke the fifth metatarsal in the foot on April 10 in Utah and had surgery four days later.
The 26-year-old anchors the Chinese team and fans have been anxiously watching to see whether he would be fit by the tournament, which starts Aug. 19 in Sapporo, Japan. China's opening game is against Italy.
Even if he's fit, Yao said he still needs time to gel with China's other players, most of whom he has little on-court experience with.
"I feel I am getting closer to my best shape. Now what I need to do is train with the whole team. We play in different leagues and have different styles in the games but we have to get used to each other in a very short time. It won't be easy," Yao said.
Yao will skip next week's warmup against the US, but has been placed on the roster for the Aug. 11-15 Stankovic Cup in eastern China.
Coached by Lithuanian Jonas Kaslauskas, China has stumbled in its preparations for the championships, losing to Spain last week by 47 points during a European road trip that saw them lose six out of seven games.