• Kyodo

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Xiang Xiang, a panda cub at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, took her first steps toward living apart from her mother Tuesday, zoo officials said.

The zoo plans for the panda cub to become fully independent by the end of the year by gradually increasing the amount of time she is by herself, they said.

Xiang Xiang will turn 1 ½ years old in December. Since giant pandas in the wild primarily live alone and become independent of their parents by the time they turn 2, the zoo decided to promote independence for the panda cub as well, the officials said.

When Xiang Xiang made an appearance by herself shortly after 9 a.m., she wandered around near the entrance as if she was looking for her mother, but then she started to climb a tree and eat bamboo leaves.

Visitors coming to see the panda cub formed a long line, and by 10 a.m. the waiting time reached 1 hour and 40 minutes.

“I felt bad for seeing her like she was looking for her mom, but I am rooting for her independence,” said Akemi Kawasaki, a 55-year-old housewife from Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture.

For the time being, Xiang Xiang and her mother will be separated during the morning and will reunite in the afternoon so that visitors can see them together.

Once both get used to being separated, they will also start to live apart during the afternoon and evening, the officials said.

While the two are apart, visitors can see Xiang Xiang, but not her mother, Shin Shin, as she will be moved to a private area, they said.

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