News & Politics

National Zoo Moves Rusty the Red Panda to Virginia

And it's partly Bao Bao's fault.

Free Rusty! Photograph courtesy National Zoo.

Rusty, the National Zoo’s red panda who became a national star last year when he escaped and roamed free for a day in Northwest DC, was moved to the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia this week to breed with a female red panda.

But species reproduce at the zoo all the time. So why couldn’t Rusty and his mate, Shama, get it on at the main site?

Chalk it up to Bao Bao, and all the foot traffic the giant panda cub brings to the zoo.

“Shama has bred in the exhibit at the Zoo before, but it’s possible the increased visitor traffic for giant panda Bao Bao could have compromised successful breeding for this pair,” the zoo says in a press release. “Out at SCBI, Rusty and Shama will get a little extra peace and quiet.”

The zoo says it will bring in one or two non-breeding red pandas to its Asia Trail exhibit later this spring, albeit specimens without histories of breaking out and cavorting around Adams Morgan. As for Rusty, the zoo says he “immediately began to explore his new enclosure” in Front Royal. But if he does manage to escape, he can explore Shenandoah National Park.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.