Smithsonian's National Zoo Takes Steps to Prevent Another Red Panda Escape
Posted on July 6, 2013
The escape of a red panda from Smithsonian's National Zoo made headlines late last month. Rusty, the red panda, was found fairly quickly in a D.C. neighborhood. Rusty is pictured below receiving an apple treat following his recapture. The zoo says Rusty is doing well. He was given a rabies booster vaccination following his escape last month. Red pandas are known for their great climbing ability and general sneakiness, but Rusty probably would not have been able to survive on his own.
Marc Brody, a conservationist and National Geographic grantee who founded Panda Mountain, told National Geographic, "They're raccoon-like and share certain raccoon characteristics but they're not as adept or opportunistic as raccoons."
A multidisciplinary team of experts at the National Zoo recently completed a thorough assessment of the red panda enclosures to determine how exactly Rusty escaped. This review included an inspection of the facility, an examination of recent photos of the enclosure, and security footage. The zoo was unable to determine exactly how Rusty got away. The zoo says, "No red panda tracks were found outside of the red panda exhibit so the exact route of Rusty's escape cannot be determined."
However, the zoo experts believe rain may have contributed to Rusty's escape by lowering the limbs of the trees in his exhibit. The rain also caused the tall bamboo on the exterior perimeter of the exhibit to bend over into the animal area, effectively creating a bridge. The zoo thinks Rusty probably made his escape by traversing a temporary bridge created by the overlapping tree limbs and bamboo.
The National Zoo says it has taken following steps to prevent future red panda escapes:
- All trees in the enclosure have been trimmed.
- All bamboo within 5 feet of the perimeter of the exhibit will be cut or transplanted before Rusty returns to the exhibit.
- All hotwire lines throughout the enclosure will be assessed, tightened and, if necessary, repaired or upgraded.
- All plantings around the enclosure will be retrimmed and kept at a safe distance from any hotwires.
- An additional visitor barrier will be added to the upper portion of the exhibit where plantings currently exist to create an additional 30 inches of tree-free space.
Photo: Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo