The Red Panda That Escaped From the National Zoo Last Year Is Now a Father

Juliana Gruenwald
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Juliana Gruenwald
July 2, 2014, 8:36 a.m.

This time last year, Rusty was a dif­fer­ent panda.

In late June of 2013, the red panda es­caped from his home at Smith­so­ni­an’s Na­tion­al Zoo and fled to D.C.’s Adams Mor­gan neigh­bor­hood. Rusty had ar­rived at the zoo just a few weeks earli­er, and his care­takers were plan­ning to breed him with a red panda named Shama. The tim­ing of his break­out led some jokesters to spec­u­late wheth­er Rusty’s fear of com­mit­ment drove him to es­cape.

Now, Rusty seems to have be­come a fam­ily man. The zoo an­nounced Wed­nes­day that Rusty and Shama wel­comed three cubs on June 26 at the Smith­so­ni­an Con­ser­va­tion Bio­logy In­sti­tute in Front Roy­al, Va. The cubs ap­pear healthy, and zoo­keep­ers are keep­ing a watch­ful eye over them via video cam­era.

Rusty and Shama are the latest red-panda couple at the Vir­gin­ia re­pro­duct­ive re­search cen­ter to give birth to cubs in 2014—the first for Rusty. Of the 10 cubs born this year to three oth­er pairs, sev­en have sur­vived. Two were born to Sher­man and Yan­hua, and two to Rocco and Regan, one of whom was still­born. An­gus and Low Mei also gave birth to two cubs, but one died shortly after.

Here’s an achingly ad­or­able photo of Regan’s sur­viv­ing cub, who is in crit­ic­al con­di­tion and re­ceiv­ing round-the-clock care from zoo­keep­ers.

Your heart is break­ing. (Janice Sveda/Smith­so­ni­an Con­ser­va­tion Bio­logy In­sti­tute)

Lest your boss catch you star­ing at these oth­er cub pho­tos on the Na­tion­al Zoo’s Flickr page, re­mem­ber: Ex­pos­ure to cute an­im­als can boost fo­cus, at­ten­tion to de­tail, and care­ful be­ha­vi­or.

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