News & Politics

Rusty, the Red Panda Who Escaped From the National Zoo, Has Died

The adorably intrepid animal became a DC celebrity in 2013.

Rusty, the red panda who once escaped from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, died October 14 at age 10. He had been living at the Pueblo Zoo in Colorado. 

In 2013, the red panda became famous when he went missing from his zoo habitat. He was spotted crossing an Adams Morgan street, then safely captured and returned to the Zoo less than a day later. Officials suspect Rusty made his way out through a tree canopy. 

Rusty moved to the Pueblo Zoo in Colorado in 2019, and its marketing/communications manager Sandy Morrison says keepers were nervous he might try to escape again. Though they kept a close eye on the red panda, he never made any further attempts.  “It seems like he just got lucky in DC,” Morrison said. 

Though Rusty had been lethargic for a few days and had visited the vet a couple of times, the Zoo has not announced a cause of death. Morrison said red pandas typically start to reach their senior years around age 11 or 12. 

In August 2021, Rusty had twins with female red panda Priya; they were the first red pandas born at the Pueblo Zoo. Morrison says Rusty became more well-known after the birth of the baby red pandas, and that he had “quite the character about him.” When he wasn’t interested in saying hi to visitors, Rusty spent much of time on his log with his tail wrapped around himself. 

Morrison says many of the small zoo’s handlers were close with Rusty. “We were privileged to have him here,” Morrison said. “We are happy to have his offspring, and his legacy will live on.”  


Katie Kenny
Editorial Fellow