Rusty the Red Panda Returns to the National Zoo

4:25 PM, Jul 9, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Cameras flashing and lots of 'ohs' and 'ahs'- at the Red Panda exhibit at the National Zoo today.

The amazement caused by this little guy, Rusty, who rejoined his mate, Shama today. The nearly one year old Rusty is a celebrity these days. 

Todd Hoppel says, "it's kinda of crazy, I cant imagine walking around D.C. and saying hey is that a panda."

He stole the limelight from his fellow zoo animals after his brazen escape and trek to Adams Morgan in late June. Kids and adults have their theories on why he escaped. One man said, "I'd end up in Adams Morgan too, it's a great place, lots of restaurants, bars."

Zoo officials have their own. 

Don Moore, associate director of Animal Care Sciences says it was raining on the day of the escape, "We had some bamboo that went down and touched one of the trees and he found a trail out."

Rusty's escape received a lot of attention. He was all over the news and all over social media. He had only been in the exhibit for a few weeks before he got out.

Over the past couple of weeks, the zoo has monitored Rusty's behavior closely. 

National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says, "my understanding from the vet is that he's in great shape, he's in good health, he's sleeping well."

It will definitely be more difficult for Rusty to explore the city on his own again.

The zoo cut the bamboo down around the exhibit and the trees inside it, added a new wooded wall, and put up additional wiring.

Now, the zoo hopes once Rusty is settled in, Rusty and Shama will be ready to mate in a few months.

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