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NBA superstar helps pandas grow in numbers

Former NBA player Yao Ming made it possible for six captive-bred pandas to get one step closer to the wild, CBS Sports reports.

The retired Houston Rockets player, who is known for his efforts to help animals, is involved in a Chinese program that is working to preserve and regrow the population of pandas, an endangered species. Ming recently attended a ceremony for the release of six pandas that were bred in captivity. The ceremony marked their release into an enclosed nature preserve in their native China - one step closer to their eventual release into the wild.

The news outlet reports that the pandas' release into the preserve will help them get weaned from their dependency on humans. They will learn to forage, mate and fend for themselves.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the giant panda is among the world's most threatened animals, causing it to be the rarest member of the bear family. There are fewer than 1,600 pandas left in the wild, according to 2004 statistics. About 60 percent of the remaining panda population lives on panda reserves in China. 
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