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The red panda Rusty.

Rusty, a male red panda like this one, is missing from the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Photograph by Abby Wood, Smithsonian Institution/AFP/Getty Images

Melody Kramer

National Geographic

Published June 24, 2013

Rusty the missing red panda was found in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. according to a tweet by the Smithsonian National Zoo. The news came via Twitter, with @NationalZoo stating "Rusty has returned from his trip to Adams Morgan and is getting a checkup at our vet hospital."

The male red panda had been missing from the National Zoo in Washington D.C. since 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Authorities have yet to announce how the furry fugitive managed to escape.

"The keepers last saw him when they fed him on Sunday night," said Devin Murphy, a spokesperson for the zoo. "They noticed he wasn't in his cage at 7:30 a.m. when they went to check on him."

She said that zoo officials combed the grounds for the panda, who is less than a year old.

"He could be sick & hiding, or someone could have taken him," the Zoo posted on Twitter on Monday morning before finding their wayward charge. "Please help us keep an eye out for Rusty."

Red pandas are typically the size of a house cat and have big, bushy tails. (Read: Red panda facts.)

They spend most of their time in trees, even sleeping in the branches. They are most active at night, as well as in the early morning and early evening hours.

"They're raccoon-like and share certain raccoon characteristics but they're not as adept or opportunistic as raccoons," said Marc Brody, a conservationist and National Geographic grantee who founded Panda Mountain, a panda conservation center.

"And they would be hard pressed to make it on their own," he said. "If it was late in the season, there would be a lot more fruiting plants around the National Zoo. I'm sure he can live for a couple of days but to forage indefinitely, it's early in the season to feed on fruits and berries."

Brody warned that Rusty could have been in trouble if temperatures climbed. Red pandas typically live in a cooler climate and might not adapt well to the humidity of Washington.

"Red pandas generally tend to sleep in trees during the heat of the day," said Murphy. "They're not aggressive, but we are advising people to respect that he is a wild animal."

Rusty arrived in Washington D.C. in April, from a zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has been on exhibit for about three weeks and is up to date on all of his shots.

He is not the only red panda to go on the lam. Yin, who lived at the Virginia Zoo from 2007 until her death in 2011, escaped twice in a month shortly after arriving in Norfolk, Va.

"She was quite the escape artist," said Winfield Danielson, the marketing and PR manager for the Virginia Zoo. "We design the habitats in accordance with the standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to keep the animals secure in their habitats but sometimes things happen. One time a branch fell from a tree and allowed Yin to climb over."

Follow Melody Kramer on Twitter.

3 comments
Tony Cho
Tony Cho

How did red panda escape from the first place?

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