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National Zoo's Red Panda Wanders Off, Found In Adams Morgan

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Rusty made it all the way from the National Zoo to Adams Morgan before being caught.
National Zoo
Rusty made it all the way from the National Zoo to Adams Morgan before being caught.

A day after a zoo escape produced tense drama and a search that spanned two neighborhoods, National Zoo officials say Rusty the red panda is resting comfortably at it's animal hospital.

Zoo officials still do not know how Rusty escaped from his exhibit at the National Zoo or why he ended up a mile away near in an alley in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Red pandas tend to stay close to home, and Adams Morgan is known more for its jumbo slices than bamboo shoots.

But Brandy Smith, a curator at the zoo, says Rusty—who's about to turn one and recently came to the National Zoo from Lincoln, Neb.—may have a bit of wild streak in him.

"Young males, they will test anything. Any of our exhibits. They are always the ones that will always take risks. And they are lighter and more energetic," she said.

Zoo keepers still haven't rule out that someone may have snatched the panda and later let him go.

Rusty will spend the next few days undergoing observations. They want to makes sure he didn't eat anything during his brief time on the lam.

In the meantime, zoo officials say they will take a close look at the red panda exhibit. Tree branches will be shortened as a precaution, and there's talk of possibly installing cameras. But as zoo chief Dennis Kelly says, while the zoo is careful to make sure, for example, that its large carnivores are held securely, the zoo itself isn't a prison.

"We build our habitats to the appropriateness of the animal. This exhibit we will learn about to make sure its appropriate and comfortable for red pandas but its also secure for them," he said.

Zoo officials expect Rusty to return to the exhibit shortly.

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