A Red Panda is Missing in the Virginia Zoo


A red panda is lost from its exhibit in a Virginia zoo in Norfolk, Virginia. The panda’s name is Sunny.

The red panda is natively found in China and the Himalayas. They are also called lesser panda, the red-cat bear and the red bear-cat. The red panda also has very distinguishable features. These include a red fur coat and a triangular face.

A typical red panda laying on branches, like what Sunny did. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Sunny has been missing for more than a week. The bear is nineteen months old and there is speculation that the bear left after her male companion, Thomas, began to pursue her, since this breed of pandas are in breeding season.

Some of the visitors at the zoo think that the panda might have been stolen by someone visiting the zoo. According to WTOP, Brianna Mason, a 22 year old college student who visited the zoo, said, I’m sure someone took it”.

There is also some speculation that Sunny might have slipped on a wet tree branch, who he’d could have also aided to her escape. These tree branches often over grow and grow over the exhibit to the pedestrian walkway, which could have also aided to the panda’s escape.

The branches from the trees were meant to help keep the pandas in the exhibit, but there was no actual shielding to prevent the escaping of the pandas. “We used to wonder what kept them from getting out,” said Karen McSpadden, 32, of Virginia Beach. “I guess nothing was.”

The tree branch escape is not particularly new, as several pandas have escaped this way, as well. For example, Rusty from the Smithsonian National Zoo escaped this way in 2013, but was found within 24 hours. However the search for Sunny still remains.

Another instance of a missing red-panda was in China. The 10 year old panda was missing for over 200 days. He was found within a 3 mile radius of the zoo. The search team for Sunny have been looking all over the zoo, and parts outside of the zoo.

Rob Vernon, a spokesman from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, said that typically animal escapes are rare. Vernon also said that usually, is an animal does escape, they are found very quickly.

Greg Bockheim, the Virginia Zoo’s executive director, hopes this is the case. Bockheim has told the Virginian-Pilot that there have been several reports on the panda’s escape. Bockheim, also stated that he plans on taking all of the reports seriously and will use a thermal imaging camera to help assist in the search for Sunny.