Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Missing Red Panda Found!

July 9, 11 a.m.

Rusty red panda

Photo by Andera Edwards, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Rusty is now back in his exhibit on Asia Trail with Shama. The first thing that got his attention was the fruit and bamboo. Next he engaged Shama in typical play behavior.  Curious Rusty followed Shama when she went back to her off-exhibit area and then back out again.

Rusty continues to eat, drink, and behave normally. He’s been happy to interact with the animal care team, and his keepers who visited him regularly at the vet hospital.

The trees and plants in and around the enclosure have been trimmed significantly, the hotwire in the exhibit has been assessed and augmented where necessary, and an additional wall has been built next to upper part of the viewer balcony. Animal care staff will continue to monitor Rusty and the exhibit.

Rusty red panda

Photo by Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo

June 28, 1 p.m.

Rusty continues to do well, and Zoo veterinarians have confirmed that he is in good health following his rabies booster vaccination. He will remain at the hospital, but Animal Care Staff hope to return Rusty to his enclosure before July 4.

A multidisciplinary team of Zoo experts, led by animal care staff, completed a thorough assessment of the Zoo’s red panda enclosure. The review included a thorough inspection of the facility and a review of recent photos and videos of the enclosure and, and security footage. Based on that review, Zoo staff conclude that it is highly likely that Rusty left his enclosure during the night of Sunday, June 23 or early morning Monday, June 24 through the tree canopy in his exhibit.

Rain last Sunday morning June 23 lowered the limbs of the trees in the red panda exhibit, shortening the distance between the trees and the edge of the enclosure. The rain also caused the tall bamboo on the exterior perimeter of the exhibit to bend over into the animal enclosure area, effectively creating a bridge. Because of his climbing ability and agility, it is likely that Rusty was able to traverse out of the exhibit due to the bridge created by overlapping tree limbs and bamboo.

The rain and temperatures in the DC metropolitan area have created excellent growing conditions for bamboo and other plants. There are three trees in the enclosure: two honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and one amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense). The bamboo growing along the perimeter of the Asia Trail exhibit is black bamboo (Phllostachys nigra).

Black bamboo grown on Zoo grounds is a preferred plant species used to feed the red pandas and other animals. Animal care staff suspect  that Rusty would have been attracted to the nearby bamboo for a treat. No red panda tracks were found outside of the red panda exhibit, so we can’t determine Rusty’s exact escape route.

Zoo staff is also taking the following actions to ensure Rusty and Shama remain safe in their enclosure.

All the trees in the enclosure have been trimmed. All bamboo within five feet of the red panda exhibit will be cut or transplanted before Rusty returns to the exhibit. All hotwire lines throughout the enclosure will be assessed, tightened, and if necessary, repaired or upgraded. All plantings around the enclosure will be re-trimmed and kept safe distance away from hotwires. An additional barrier will be added to the upper portion of the exhibit where plantings are currently, to create an additional 30 inches of bamboo- and tree-free space.

We’re confident these steps will ensure Rusty stays in his enclosure in the future!

Rusty red panda

Photo by Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo

June 27, 9 p.m.

Rusty's rabies booster vaccine went well this afternoon! Animal care staff rewarded him with one of his favorite snacks: almost half of an apple.

Rusty red panda

Photo by Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo


June 27, 9 a.m.

Animal care staff reports that Rusty is doing "great," and vets continue to monitor his health. Today he will receive a rabies booster vaccination and will remain in the hospital. Staff continue to assess the red panda enclosure.

June 26, 9 a.m.

Rusty again did very well overnight. He is eating and drinking normally. Today, our animal care team will be talking about next steps for Rusty.

June 25, 10 a.m.

Rusty is still at our vet hospital this morning after his escapade yesterday. He rested well last night, and is bright and alert this morning. He's eating and drinking normally.

We're still not sure how he got out, though we continue to investigate that question.

June 24, 2:20 p.m.

Rusty the red panda has been found! Thanks to help from our alert Twitter followers, animal care staff were able to locate Rusty in an Adams Morgan neighborhood, recover him, and return him safely to the Smithsonian's National Zoo this afternoon. He is doing well, and is going to stay at our Department of Animal Health for a few days.

Animal care staff is still unsure how Rusty got out of his enclosure and ended up in Adams Morgan. They are investigating this issue, as well as doing a complete assessment of the red panda exhibit on Asia Trail.

We will keep you updated and let you know how Rusty is doing as we get more information!


June 24, 11:45 a.m.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is missing a red panda, a male named Rusty. He was not in his exhibit this morning when keepers went in to feed the red pandas, and we are not sure how long he has been missing. He was fed and cared for last night at 6 p.m.

Red pandas are arboreal, territorial animals. They prefer to stick very close to their home range, which in Rusty’s case is his exhibit. Red pandas typically spend the warm daytime hours resting or sleeping up in trees. Most likely, Rusty is napping in a tree somewhere in or very close to the Zoo. Animal care staff is carefully combing the trees around Asia Trail and the upper half of the Zoo.

However, there is a chance that he’s gone further afield, either because he is sick or scared. It’s also possible that someone has taken him.

We’re asking for your help in keeping an eye out for Rusty. But remember that red pandas are wild animals. They bite when cornered or scared, and even ours are not used to being held or picked up.

If you do see Rusty, don’t attempt to approach or trap him. Stay where you can safely keep an eye on him and call 202.633.4888 and alert the Zoo immediately. Try to keep him in your line of sight until Zoo officials arrive.

Red pandas have the same fire-red fur as a fox, with a long, banded tail. They have white faces with large, pointed ears, and weigh about ten pounds.

Smithsonian's National Zoo Red Panda Rusty