The always elusive Rusty the red panda has the left the National Zoo once again. This time, however, he didn’t escape for a tryst in Adams Morgan, but rather was transported by zoo keepers to the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., so he could mate with fellow local red panda, Shama.
Why can’t they just mate on their home turf?
Because of media darling Bao Bao, the celebrity panda cub at the zoo. According to a zoo spokeswoman, Shama is sensitive to noise, and because of the increased visitor traffic Bao Bao is bringing to the zoo, staff felt she would have a better chance for a successful pregnancy if she were in Virginia in a quieter space. The giant pandas’ and red pandas’ enclosures are near each other at the National Zoo. (It should be noted, red pandas are not actually bears, but more closely related to racoons.)
It is unclear how long the red pandas will be in Virginia, but they have a gestation of about 134 days. Spokeswoman Devin Murphy seemed confident that Rusty wouldn’t escape from his new digs in Virginia.
“We will take the same great care of him out there as we do here,” Murphy says.