Twin pandas at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo being prepared for independence from mother

Twin panda cubs at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo are being prepared for independence from their mother starting on Friday.

Male Xiao Xiao and female Lei Lei will be 21 months old on March 23. Wild pandas become independent of their mothers around the age.

Zoo officials kept the twins separated from their mother Shin Shin on Friday morning. There were no problems with the cubs, who ate bamboo shoots together and ran around their enclosure in the morning.

The officials said the twins are growing well, each weighing about 50 kilograms at a checkup on February 5. The officials also said the cubs' permanent teeth have grown.

A visitor in his 50s said he regrets that the mother and her twins cannot be seen together anymore, adding that he hopes the twins will grow up healthy.

A woman with a two-year-old child said she can relate to the pandas because her son is around their age and will start going to daycare next month.

Zoo officials plan to continue separating the twins from the mother gradually for about 10 days.

The zoo's head Fukuda Yutaka said the twins have so far grown well thanks to their mother. He expressed hope that the twins will keep growing happily together.