Rusty the red panda goes missing from National Zoo

Update, 2:11 p.m.: Rusty has been found in Adams Morgan.

Original post: This morning, at around 7:30, zookeepers at the Smithsonian National Zoo noticed that Rusty, the newest addition to the zoo’s red panda enclosure, was missing. Rusty was last seen Sunday night at 6:00 p.m., and his disappearance caused the park to shut down for nearly two hours, while zookeepers searched for the orange fuzzball. The park has since been reopened, but the search continues.

Rusty first arrived at the National Zoo from Nebraska over a month ago and made his first appearance earlier this June. Rusty was brought in with the intention of becoming the female red panda Shama’s mate, and, according to the National Zoo, the pair got along very well together.

Red pandas are native to China and, aside from their silly antics, are known for bamboo binge-eating and sleeping for most of the day.

It’s unknown exactly how Rusty escaped from the enclosure. Park officials reported that the exhibit’s “hot wires,” which provide a small shock when touched, were working properly, according to the Post.

Some zookeepers observed that Rusty had not been eating well over the past few days and are considering the possibility that Rusty is sick and escaped, only to die somewhere nearby. There is also a chance that someone stole Rusty, although it has been confirmed that it was not, in fact, Newt Gingrich.

In all likelihood, however, Rusty has simply climbed into a nearby tree for a long nap. DCist notes that red pandas do not move around much during warm summer days and are extremely territorial, making it unlikely that Rusty has gotten far.

Although red pandas are typically calm and friendly, they are omnivorous and are known to eat birds and small mammals. If Rusty is spotted, he should not be approached. The National Zoo is advising anyone who finds Rusty to tell an official or call 202-633-4888 immediately.

Photo: Flickr via Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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