Popular panda Xiang Xiang at Tokyo's Ueno zoo took her first steps towards independence Tuesday, spending the morning away from her mother Shin Shin for the first time.

Xiang Xiang will turn 18 months in December. In their natural habitat, giant pandas start living on their own when they are around one-and-a-half to 2 years old, according to the zoo.

Zookeepers said they hope to gradually wean Xiang Xiang off her mother's care, starting by separating them just for the mornings. Once Xiang Xiang becomes accustomed to it, she will start spending the afternoons, and eventually nighttime, away from her mother.

In her first adventure by herself in the outdoor playground area, Xiang Xiang appeared to be looking for her mother in the beginning as she wandered around the entrance. But the panda soon started to roam about as usual, climbing trees and munching on bamboo.