Rusty the Red Panda has returned to the Smithsonian National Zoo after a highly publicized escape to the D.C. neighborhood Adams Morgan, where he was captured, and a two-week stint at the zoo's vet hospital.
But Rusty's home has changed a bit since he last stayed there. In light of his escape, the National Zoo staff decided to update the Red Panda habitat that Rusty shares with female panda Shama, so another Rusty search will not occur in the future.
"[W]e trimmed back two trees that are in that exhibit, and we trimmed back several bushes and shrubbery," said Devin Murphy, a spokeswoman for the National Zoo.
The real issue that led to Rusty's escape, though, did not involve the exhibit's trees, but its bamboo. "From what we can gather through all the evidence that we found, some rain had caused bamboo around his exhibit to bend over, and that created a bridge with the tree canopy and his exhibit, and he was able to climb out that way," Murphy said.
"So we have since removed all the bamboo that was around his exhibit and trimmed back the trees." Murphy specified that the zoo's horticulture team removed 125 pounds of bamboo from Rusty and Shama's exhibit.
Rusty appears to be doing "very well" in his updated home, Murphy said. "He spent about two weeks at the vet hospital, and the vets monitored him very closely."
"He was completely healthy, so there weren't any concerns about his health when he returned back to the exhibit," Murphy said.
Rusty returned to the exhibit at 9 a.m. to be reunited with panda pal Shama. "Visitors will be able to see him now on exhibit every day," Murphy said.