June 25, 2018
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Rusty the renegade red panda found, returned to National Zoo

Abby Wood | Reuters
Abby Wood | Reuters
An endangered red panda named Rusty is seen in this undated handout photo released by the Smithsonian National Zoo on Monday. Rusty, who was reported missing on Monday morning, was spotted by a passerby later in the afternoon. Zoo officials apprehended him and returned him to the zoo. It's not yet clear how he escaped.
By Michael E. Ruane, The Washington Post

“Crated and captured!”

The male red panda that escaped from Smithsonian National Zoo overnight was nabbed Monday afternoon in Adams Morgan, a zoo spokeswoman said.

Word came back from the panda hunt about 2:15 p.m. that Rusty, who is less than a year old and is about the size of a raccoon, had been captured.

He was not seen in his enclosure at 7:30 a.m. Monday, and the zoo sounded a “Code Green” alert for an escaped animal at 8 a.m.

An intense search ensued. The zoo gates were closed temporarily as the search began but were reopened at 9:45 a.m. after he eluded authorities, spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said.

“We have been searching all morning,” she had said earlier. “It is most likely that he has not really left the vicinity. He would have to have some very strong motivation to leave the area.”

But around 2 p.m., a passerby spotted the fugitive, near 20th and Biltmore streets, just south of the zoo, snapped and tweeted his picture and reportedly called the zoo. Rusty was quickly apprehended by zoo staff.

Red pandas have thick reddish fur, long tails ringed with white and very long whiskers. They like to climb trees. Like giant pandas, they are native to China.

The zoo’s giant pandas, meanwhile, were safe and “inside slumbering,” Baker-Masson said.

Rusty is relatively new to the zoo. He arrived from a zoo in Lincoln, Neb., in late April and has been on exhibit about three weeks. The zoo also has a female red panda, Shama, and plans to breed the two.

“This animal is not dangerous to any human,” Baker-Masson said. “He is vaccinated.”

She had said that Rusty, who is said to be friendly and mild-mannered, might have managed to get out of his enclosure and was just hiding on the zoo grounds.

Baker-Masson said the enclosure’s “hot wires,” which deliver a small shock to prevent escapes, were on. She said curators noted that Rusty has not seemed interested in food the past few days.

It’s not clear how he escaped.


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