'Rusty' Red Panda Missing from Nat'l Zoo, Credit: National Zoo
Rusty, the red Panda is safe.
The rambunctious boy panda lit up the Twitterverse today after taking a late night stroll from his cage at the National Zoo.
It is fair to say that hundreds of thousands of people were desperately following the all day hunt for the little guy.
Rusty only arrived in Washington a few weeks ago, so maybe he just wanted to see the sights.
The Zoo is going to ground the juvenile for the next few days and confine him to the hospital to make sure he is okay. But then keepers plan to put him back in the enclosure he has already escaped from.
Call it Rusty the Red Panda's great adventure.
Early this afternoon, long hours after the zoo started a frantic hunt for him, neighbors snagged a picture and pleaded on Twitter for the Zoo to come get him after he snuck out of his cage sometime overnight and made it through the park and over the creek to Adams Morgan.
"Well we've had stranger things. This is Adams Morgan after all," said one DC resident.
Rusty is a little under a year old, about a middle-schooler in human terms. And we all know how human boys like to wander. Not that he's a mean boy, keepers say he put up little resistance when they arrived with a crate and called out to him.
"We brought the keepers that knew him best," said Brandie Smith at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Rusty had arrived from a Nebraska Childrens' Zoo too late for red panda's normal mating season around Valentine's Day.
But he's been quite affectionate with his enclosure mate, an older woman named Shawma and the zoo had high hopes for cubs. His enclosure has high walls, fences and electric wires. How he got out remains a mystery.
At one point in the middle of the hunt, the zoo suggested someone might have taken him.
"If anyone has stolen taken Rusty, we want you too call us at the zoo, we want you to tell us where you are and we want to come get him," said Pamela Baker-Masson, the Smithsonian National Zoo Spokeswoman.
Zookeepers say there was one tree that they've cut back that might have offered Rusty an escape route. But they doubt it.
They still think someone may have panda-napped him and then had second thoughts.
Source: WUSA9 News