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Rusty The Red Panda Settles In After Brazen Escape From National Zoo In D.C.

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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Rusty the red panda is back in his home after his daring escape a few weeks ago.

And Mary Bubala reports–he’s already attracting quite a crowd at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

Cameras flashing and lots of “Ohs” and “Ahs” at the red panda exhibit. The amazement caused by Rusty. The little guy rejoined his mate, Shama, Wednesday.

The nearly one-year-old Rusty is a celebrity these days.

“It’s kind of crazy. I can imagine walking around D.C. and saying, ‘Hey, is that a panda?'” a visitor said.

He stole the limelight from his fellow zoo animals after his brazen escape and trek to Adams Morgan in late June.

“And I thought, well, if I escaped from any place I’d end up in Adams Morgan, too,” said another visitor.

Kids and adults have their theories on what happened. Zoo officials have their own.

“Because of the rain, we had some bamboo we think that went down and touched one of his trees and he found a trail out,” zookeepers said.

Rusty’s escape received a lot of attention. He was all over the news and all over social media. He had only been in the exhibit for a few weeks before he got out.

Over the past couple of weeks, the zoo has monitored Rusty’s behavior closely.

“My understanding from the vet is that he’s in great shape. He’s in good health, he’s sleeping well,” said zookeepers.

It will definitely be more difficult for Rusty to explore the city on his own again.

“I’m sure he’s thinking of taking off for an evening again,” a visitor said.

The zoo cut the bamboo down around the exhibit and the trees inside, added a new wooded wall and put up additional wiring around the sides.

Now, the zoo hopes once he is settled in, Rusty and Shama will be ready to mate in a few months.

For a little while, Rusty has lost his night privileges. He’s being kept indoors until zoo officials gain a bit of trust in him again.

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