Infamous red panda Rusty dies in Colorado

Rusty, the infamous red panda that in 2013 escaped the National Zoo only to be found in a tree in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, has died at a Colorado zoo.

National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson confirmed Rusty’s death to WTOP. Rusty was 10.

The Pueblo Zoo said in a Facebook post: “We are sad to report the unexpected passing of Rusty, the red panda.”

Rusty died Oct. 14, a spokeswoman for the Pueblo Zoo said. The zoo hasn’t yet received results of a necropsy.



While at the Pueblo Zoo, Rusty became a dad to twins, Mogwai and Momo, the zoo said.

The Colorado zoo updated its Facebook page to feature Rusty. The zoo’s area supervisor called Rusty a “great ambassador.”

Rusty’s great escape in D.C. prompted an intense search when Rusty was one and occurred just weeks after Rusty came to the National Zoo in June 2013.

Initially, the escape was a mystery, but then, zoo officials realized that Rusty managed to leave the enclosure with the help of tree canopy in the exhibit. Rain had lowered tree limbs so that there was less space between the trees and edge of the enclosure. Bamboo bent over from the rain created a bridge for Rusty.

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Rusty the red panda is seen back at the National Zoo’s vet hospital after his day of adventure in  June 2013. (Courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

A tweet and a phone tip helped animal keepers track Rusty down, but not before causing an uproar on Twitter, even prompting former House Speaker and animal lover Newt Gingrich to tease that he did not steal the panda.

“In response to red panda charges, I have an alibi, Callista and I were feeding our pet elephants all evening ( just a joke) help find panda,” Gingrich tweeted at the time.

Rusty was born in 2012 at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and then came to the National Zoo in April 2013 before heading to the Pueblo Zoo.

He arrived at the Pueblo Zoo in 2019 as part of the Species Survival Plan.

Rusty’s mate Shama was euthanized in 2014 at age 7.

Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to WTOP.com in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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