Rusty the red panda, who once famously escaped the National Zoo, has died

A red panda, who once famously escaped the National Zoo and captivated the D.C. area and beyond, has died unexpectedly, according to The Pueblo Zoo.

Rusty the red panda escaped from his habitat at the National Zoo at some point during the night of June 23, 2013. Zoo staff and the public began searching and before long, Rusty sightings were being reported in the District.

Rusty was spotted in the Adams Morgan neighborhood and eventually located in a tree.

Years later, people in D.C. still remember Rusty's great escape. 

"It was all hands on deck man. Everybody was there," recalls FOX 5 photojournalist Nelson Jones. 

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18:  In this handout provided by the Smithsonian National Zoo, a male red panda named Rusty is seen in his exhibit in the Smithsonian National Zoo on June 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Rusty went missing on June 23, 2013 from the zoo but was found in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington the following day.   (Photo by Abby Wood/Smithsonian National Zoo via Getty Images)

Rusty moved to The Pueblo Zoo in 2019, located in Pueblo, Colorado. His reputation preceded him. 

"That was definitely a warning that was given to our keepers, that ‘hey he is a little bit of an escape artist so keep your eye out and hopefully his exhibit is covered.'" said Sandy Morrison from The Pueblo Zoo. "He just stole everybody's heart." 

While there, he became a dad to twins, Mogwai and Momo. The Pueblo Zoo says he was a curious but independent panda.

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Photo credit Bethany Morlind

"I feel very lucky to have earned his trust and been able to work closely with him over the past years. He was a great ambassador for his species and will be missed by staff and guests alike," said Area Supervisor Bethany.