A young red panda named Rusty has been found after he went missing this morning from Washington's Smithsonian National Zoo, prompting a frenzied search and an even more-frenzied response online.
The panda, less than a year old and roughly the size of a raccoon, escaped his enclosure since 7:30 this morning. The zoo sounded an alert for an escaped animal, called "Code Green," around 8 a.m., the Washington Post reported.
The zoo had been tweeting their search, and tweeted Monday afternoon that he'd been found:"
Rusty the red panda has been recovered, crated & is headed safely back to the National Zoo!
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) June 24, 2013
National media outlets also expressed their relief over Rusty's safe return:
Our nightmare has ended! RT @NationalZoo: Rusty the red panda has been recovered, crated & is headed safely back to the National Zoo!
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) June 24, 2013
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 24, 2013
At least 25 fake Rusty Twitter accounts have sprung up since the panda went missing.
Rusty was spotted a little less than a mile from the zoo's entrance Monday afternoon by a woman named Ashley Foughty in Washington's Adams Morgan neighborhood, who snapped a few Twitter photos of the panda:
— Ashley Foughty (@AshleyFoughty) June 24, 2013
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) June 24, 2013
"We’re hoping he stays there until they make it,” she told Washington City Paper.
The zoo has been searching for the missing critter all morning, said the zoo's communications director Pamela Baker-Masson.
"It is most likely that he has not really left the vicinity. He would have to have some very strong motivation to leave the area, she said.
According to the Zoo's website, Rusty is due to celebrate his first birthday in July. He came to the zoo from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska, and was paired with another red panda for breeding.
Though they've been classified with the bear family and with procyonids, an animal family that includes raccoons, some are alleging that Rusty "isn't even a real panda."
— Henry Mack III (@HMack3) June 24, 2013
Red pandas are now classified as the sole species in family Ailuridae, and are on the list of the planet's endangered species.
Here, some of the best tweets — both the concerned and the comical — about Rusty's disturbing disappearance.