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Red Panda Escapes From National Zoo, Tracked Via Twitter In D.C. Neighborhood

WASHINGTON (WJZ) -- Zoo leaders still don't know exactly how Rusty, a red panda, escaped the National Zoo in Washington DC this week.

Monique Griego reports his fugitive reputation is getting him a lot of attention from visitors.

Before this week, the red pandas weren't the most popular exhibit at the zoo, but after Rusty's escape, it is the hottest attraction.

The red panda is quickly turning into the Smithsonian National Zoo's unofficial mascot after the exhibit's newest member, Rusty, made a mysterious escape that sparked a frantic search.

"Without a doubt, he's famous," said zoo visitor Zack Milliron.

"I started laughing. I thought, `What an escape artist,'" said Kay Vanchiere.

Runaway Rusty broke free from his enclosure sometime Sunday night. The little guy made it over high walls, fences, electric lines, through the park and over a creek to get out.

Zoo leaders quickly took to Twitter to track him down. It wasn't long before a woman snapped pictures of the fugitive in a neighborhood about a mile away.

"We sent the keepers with which he's most familiar," said . "So the keepers called his name. He was familiar to them. They calmed him down."

Rusty is still at the vet but the frenzy to find him turned his exhibit and female mate Shawma into the zoo's hottest attraction.

"His big brothers get all the attention so he did it to get a little more publicity," said Vanchiere.

But as the crowd clamored for pictures, there was an elephant in the room: just how did Rusty go rogue?

"I see they got electric wires around the parameter but I don't see how he could get out," said Gregory HOlland.

"You probably have 100 people who work at the zoo and somehow this thing escaped without anybody knowing," Milliron said.

Curators are now reviewing security camera footage and have already cut back several trees that may have aided in Rusty's escape.

Rusty will be at the vet for a few more days. The zoo does plan to add more security cameras. As of yet, they have not determined exactly how Rusty got out.

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