“Rusty is sleeping well, eating well, hydrating well and — this is probably too much information — he’s pooping well,” zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson reported cheerily. “I spoke to the vet this morning and she said Rusty is ‘bright and alert.’ ”
Rusty, one of two red pandas at the National Zoo, disappeared from his enclosure sometime between 6 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 a.m. Monday. By 8 a.m., alarms had been sounded and a citywide panda hunt began.
Finally, around lunchtime Monday, a woman spotted Rusty on the run in Adams Morgan. She tweeted some photos and called the zoo, which sent animal curators to scour the area. Rusty was captured shortly after 2 p.m. and taken to the zoo’s animal hospital where he could be examined.
“One of our concerns was, did he eat anything funky?” Baker-Masson said. A hearty appetite and regular bowel movements indicate that Rusty did not ingest anything toxic. “We care a lot about poop around here, with good reason,” Baker-Masson said with a chuckle.
Baker-Masson said workers would closely examine the enclosure as they tried to determine how Rusty escaped. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were still no answers.
“We would really like to figure out how he got out,” Baker-Masson said. “There is no obvious escape route.”
Rusty was still in the zoo’s clinic and there are no plans to relocate him in the immediate future, Baker-Masson said.
Shama, the zoo’s female red panda, has remained in the enclosure throughout the ordeal and has shown no signs of trying to get out.
Baker-Masson said that the zoo has not ruled out foul play in Rusty’s brief disappearance, but she notes that “we may never know” if someone did, indeed, reach into the enclosure and pull him out. “The mystery continues.”
Trishula Patel contributed to this report.