Former Chinese basketball hero Yao Ming stands out for a number of reasons, not least his height, his ability on the court, but also for the mission he has taken on after he retired playing ball.
In his home country of China, shark fin soup had become so popular that the country became the largest market for shark fin. While there isn't much meat in the fin itself, the dish was considered something of a status symbol. As more people were able to afford to order shark fin soup, sharks paid the price with their lives.
The number of sharks in our seas has been steadily decreasing for decades. About 100 million sharks a year are killed - 73% of those are targeted for their fins, which are usually cut off before the shark is left to die.
That's why Yao teamed up with the conservation nonprofit WildAid to spread the word that shark fin soup is bad news bears. Since launching with the slogan "When the buying stops, the killing can too," a huge shift has occurred. The campaign has been credited with cutting the number of sharks killed for their fins by 50 percent.
Yao Ming is a retired NBA basketball legend and was an eight-time all-star. He was a member of the Chinese Olympic Basketball Team in 2000, 2004, and 2008 - when he was the leader of China’s Olympic delegation. Yao is now president of the Chinese Basketball Association, owner of the Shanghai Sharks professional basketball team, and executive director of the Yao Ming Foundation.
Yao became a WildAid ambassador in 2006 when he signed the pledge to give up shark fin soup, and has since appeared in numerous ads, billboards, and TV public service announcements calling for an end to the illegal wildlife trade. He has championed the conservation of sharks, elephants, and rhinos with messages that have reached hundreds of millions of people in China and around the world. Yao Ming is the star of our documentary The End of the Wild, a film that depicts the tragic poaching crises decimating elephant and rhino populations in Africa. He was instrumental in bringing about China's landmark ivory ban at the end of 2017.