Beloved Red Panda Famous for Escaping Zoo Dies in Colorado

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Aaron Cheng Photography/Getty Images)

Rusty the red panda has died at the Pueblo Zoo in Colorado. He was famous for escaping the National Zoo as a baby, and was beloved by all who knew him and took care of him at the zoo. The zoo broke the news of his unexpected death on Oct. 18. In similar unfortunate news, a Rhode Island zoo recently announced the death of one of their red pandas.

“Born in 2012 at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, [Rusty] then spent time at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute before coming to the Pueblo Zoo,” the zoo wrote in a Facebook post. “He was a curious but independent panda, often found stretched out over a log under the misters or munching on bamboo.”

The zoo also noted that Rusty was father to twin red pandas Momo and Mogwai. According to a spokesperson for the zoo, Rusty died on Oct. 14. His cause of death is still undetermined.

“I feel very lucky to have earned his trust and been able to work closely with him over the past years,” said Bethany Morlind, the Area Supervisor. “He was a great ambassador for his species and will be missed by staff and guests alike.”

Rusty was about 10 years old, according to a report from The State. But Rusty wasn’t just famous at the Pueblo Zoo for being utterly adorable and personable. He was most famous for his time at the National Zoo in 2013. He climbed out of what National Zoo staff considered an “escape-proof enclosure” and went for a little adventure.

Rusty the Red Panda’s Adventure Outside the National Zoo

According to a report from the Washington Post from 2013, Rusty had only been at the National Zoo in Washington, DC for a few weeks before he made his escape. He went missing around 7:30 am on a steamy Monday in June, and was found later that day hiding in the bushes in a DC neighborhood.

The National Zoo went to Code Green, the signal for an escaped animal. But the entirety of Washington, DC went into a full-blown red scare. Red panda scare, that is. Everyone was talking about the escaped red panda, from the Twitter-verse, to mainstream media, to the police, to former presidential candidates, all the way up to someone shouting a question about red pandas at a White House press meeting. The city was crazy with red panda fever.

Ashley Foughty, then 29, somehow missed the excitement, as she didn’t know Rusty was missing. But, she was walking with her family in the Adams Morgan neighborhood when she spotted something that looked like a raccoon at 21st and Biltmore streets. She snapped some photos and tweeted them, going the extra mile and calling the zoo as well.

Rusty was nabbed by zoo staff at around 2 pm in Adams Morgan. The zoo tweeted a photo of a thirsty-looking Rusty taking a much-deserved drink from a water bottle safely in a crate. The zoo reported that evening that he was in good health, and not any worse for wear. From then on, Rusty was under 24-hour supervision, lest he make another escape attempt.