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Richard Branson Swims With Whale Sharks (VIDEO)


First Posted: 08/09/11 10:07 AM ET Updated: 10/09/11 06:12 AM ET

While swimming with the dolphins is enough to appease many travelers, Sir Richard Branson is a bit more adventurous than most. Instead, it took swimming with sharks to do the trick.

Branson posted to his Virgin blog that he recently swam with 300 whale sharks off Cancun. He told The Telegraph of one encounter that may have been a bit too close: "I was swimming around one of these gentle giants off Cancun in Mexico – and then, suddenly, I realized I had managed to get myself right inside it."

According to National Geographic, whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, and can grow to over 40 feet long. Despite their size, they are gentle and even allow swimmers to "hitch a ride."

For Branson, this adventure had a mission -- to raise awareness of "the slaughter of these beautiful creatures due to shark fin soup."

Whale sharks are currently listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Branson writes on his blog, "Believe it or not, there are still people in China and Japan who cut the fins off these beautiful, beautiful creatures for shark fin soup and throw the rest of the whale shark back into the water to die. It's too sad for words."

When Californians debated a shark fin ban this year, advocates estimated 73 million sharks are slaughtered each year, largely for shark fin soup, but the Associated Press reported that some critics of the ban felt it was "an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine."

The Pew Environment Group reports that nearly 30 percent of sharks and are at risk of extinction. Branson suggests visiting WildAid to learn more about saving sharks.

Check out this WildAid video of Branson swimming with the sharks:

Richard Branson - WildAid Whale Sharks - 2011 from Blue Sphere Media on Vimeo.

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Filed by Joanna Zelman  |  Report Corrections