After a long first week, staff at the Smithsonian National Zoo are beginning to breathe easy as their surviving panda cub gains some independence. Not only is the newborn beginning to get his black-and-white panda pattern, but mother Mei Xiang is feeling comfortable leaving him (it's a boy!) in the den. 

This new panda-cam footage shows Mei Xiang leaving the cub for a much-needed break. "This is only the second time she's done that since giving birth," says the team. "She also decided to eat some sugarcane and drink some dilute apple juice the keepers left for her yesterday evening."

It might sound distressed, but the calls you hear from the baby are simply "healthy vocalisations" that will only increase as the little one finds his voice. "Over the next few weeks she will get more comfortable leaving him for increasingly longer periods of time to eat and drink. While Mei was away, our behaviour watchers got a fantastic view of the cub!"

Want to keep tabs on the cub? Check out the panda cam!

Top header image: Smithsonian National Zoo