Rusty the Red Panda Returns to Exhibit

Tuesday, Jul 9, 2013  |  Updated 3:19 PM EDT
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The red panda who escaped from the National Zoo last month is back in his exhibit. Megan McGrath reports.

Megan McGrath

The red panda who escaped from the National Zoo last month is back in his exhibit. Megan McGrath reports.

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The red panda who escaped from the National Zoo last month is back in his exhibit.

Rusty was released into his Asia Trail exhibit area at 9 a.m. Tuesday, more than two weeks after he took an unexpected romp to the Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C.

Zookeepers said he escaped either the evening of June 23 or the following morning, most likely aided by the tree canopy in his habitat. He was recaptured the afternoon of June 24 after a resident tweeted a photo of him hopping into greenery alongside a home at 20th and Biltmore streets NW.

Rusty got a rabies booster shot upon his return to the zoo and spent some time in the zoo's hospital as a precaution. He now has a clean bill of health.

Tree limbs and bamboo are believed to have drooped and grown during heavy rain, aiding in his escape and "effectively creating a bridge," keepers said in a release.

Prior to his return, the vegetation in and around his enclosure was significantly cut back, and some new wires will give him a small shock if he climbs too high.

He'll also be brought to an interior enclosure at night -- just to be safe -- for at least a week.

"He's been in his corner for awhile and he's still grounded," quipped the zoo's Don Moore.

Rusty is the first animal to go missing from the zoo in recent memory. Visitors hope he sticks around this time.

"Stay at home," said zoo visitor Juliana Sequeir. "You don't have to run away. You have your friend" -- tthe zoo's other red panda, Shama.

They might benefit from a bit of marriage counselling, though. Things got a bit tense during their reunion, with one of them swatting the other. Then again, he did leave her behind.

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