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6 giant pandas released in China preserve

January 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Six pandas bred in captivity were released into an enclosed nature preserve in their native China Wednesday.

Researchers hope the pandas will be weaned from dependency on humans in the coming years and learn to forage, mate and fend for themselves.

The newly released pandas are between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. They were selected for their health, behavior and genes from among 108 pandas at the Chengdu Panda Base, a breeding center in the provincial capital.

Retired NBA star Yao Ming attended the ceremony for the release of the six pandas.

"I think it is most important to keep a balance between modern living and nature. We have been talking about it for many years but it is never an easy thing to do," Yao told reporters.

The $4.75 million habitat is the first phase of the project which will be expanded in area and which aims to hold 30 pandas at a time and release 100 of them into the wild over 50 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.