Rusty the red panda returns to National Zoo exhibit

Rusty climbed a tree canopy and got out of the National Zoo on June 24. Photo: Jummy Olabanji

More than two weeks after his daring escape from the Smithsonian's National Zoo, Rusty has made triumphant return.

The red panda, who's day on the lam near Adams Morgan on June 24 captivated the D.C. area and the nation, returned to his exhibit on Tuesday morning. Zookeepers moved Rusty, the almost 1-year-old red panda, from an animal hospital to a behind-the-scenes holding area.

Once keepers determined he was ready to go, he was released back into his habitat.

"He's very well,” says Pamela Baker-Masson, associated director of communications for the zoo. “The reports from the hospital are that he's eating well, resting well, drinking well, seems to be in perfect health."

In his first few hours back in his habitat, Rusty was rambunctious, climbing trees and playing.

Rusty worked his way out of his enclosure on either late Sunday or early that Monday, sending zookeepers dashing out to find him along with the public at large. He was finally found and taken back to the Zoo later that afternoon after he was spotted running around on Biltmore Street in Adams Morgan.

The red panda had only been at the National Zoo for about two weeks after arriving in Washington on loan from the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska.

Keepers believe that Rusty was able to escape from the exhibit by climbing the tree canopy that covers the enclosure. Those trees have since been trimmed and a second visitor barrier will be added for extra security, zoo officials say.

"He's a climber, so we've just removed some of the climbing structures so that he won't be getting out," Baker-Masson says.