Rusty, the red panda who made headlines in 2013 following his successful escape from the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, has died.
Rusty escaped his enclosure at the National Zoo in June of 2013, as CNN reported at the time. City residents spotted the small panda wandering through DC’s trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood.
He was safely returned to the facility but the escape puzzled zoo officials – no red panda had ever escaped the enclosure before, and Rusty’s companion stayed in the zoo while he escaped.
After an in-depth investigation, zoo officials concluded that he likely escaped through the tree canopy in his enclosure. The trees were lower than usual due to rain, allowing Rusty to climb up – and out.
Since his daring escape, Rusty had relocated to the Pueblo Zoo in Colorado. The zoo announced that he had died on its official Instagram account on Wednesday. Rusty was around 10 years old.
The zoo described Rusty as “a curious but independent panda, often found stretched out over a log under the misters or munching on bamboo.”
“I feel very lucky to have earned his trust and been able to work closely with him over the past years,” said his lead keeper Bethany in the Instagram post. “He was a great ambassador for his species and will be missed by staff and guests alike.”
Rusty fathered twins Mogwai and Momo while at the Pueblo Zoo.
Red pandas are an endangered species that are native to Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, India, and Tibet, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo. The species can live to be as old as 23 years old, says the zoo.