A red panda that disappeared from his enclosure at the Smithsonian National Zoo was found Monday morning in a nearby neighborhood and returned home safely.
Rusty was last seen Sunday evening and zoo workers discovered him missing about 8 a.m. Monday. Social media played a part in his recovery when Ashley Foughty tweeted the zoo with a picture and information on where she sighted him Monday afternoon.
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Rusty is new to the Washington, D.C., zoo, moving there from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska, USA Today reports.
He was enclosed with another red panda, Shama, already at the zoo with hopes the two will mate. Red pandas are an endangered species.
Rusty is less than a year old and is about the size of a raccoon. The Washington Post reported that the zoo doors were closed for a short time
after Rusty’s escape was discovered by zookeepers, but reopened by 9:45 a.m.
Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson told the newspaper that staff are unsure how Rusty escaped. The enclosure’s electrically wired fence, which gives a small shock to keep animals from escaping, was turned on. Some staff had noted that Rusty wasn’t interested in food for the past few days.
Red pandas, which are native to China, have thick red hair and long raccoon-like tails with white stripes circling them. Baker-Masson said Rusty had his shots and wasn’t dangerous to anyone while on the loose. He is reported to be a friendly animal.
The World Wildlife Federation reports that the sweet-faced red pandas are skillful and acrobatic animals
that live predominantly in the trees and are herbivores. There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas.
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