Red Panda On The Loose From Zoo, Maybe Driven Out By Pushy Male

Poor Sunny.

Staff at the Virginia Zoo are on the lookout for a missing female red panda who the zoo says may have fallen out of a tree as her lusty male counterpart “pursued” her.

Sunny, 19 months old, was last seen inside the Norfolk facility’s red panda habitat at around 5 p.m. on Monday, according to the zoo’s website. She was discovered missing on Tuesday morning.

Sunny in an undated photo from the zoo.
Sunny in an undated photo from the zoo.

Apparently, it’s red panda breeding season, which can lead the animals to act “a little abnormal” or “hyperactive.” Zoo staff posit that the behavior of her habitat mate, Thomas, may have caused Sunny to fall off a tree and out of their enclosure altogether.

“Monday night it was rainy and windy,” the site says. “Sunny may have been on a slippery branch while Thomas, the male red panda, was pursuing her and caused her to slip and fall.”

But Thomas isn’t talking, and on Wednesday staff and police were still searching the zoo’s grounds and the surrounding area within a mile radius. They also planned to enlist the use of a geothermal camera, ABC News reports. On Wednesday evening, they posted a plea for help from the community on Facebook.

The zoo site says that Sunny is likely up a tree somewhere, but recommends that searchers “scan the tree canopy from a distance, rather than walking up to individual trees to search.” It also notes that while red pandas are not usually considered aggressive, people should not approach, touch, feed or attempt to capture Sunny themselves. Take a photo instead. Anyone who has spotted Sunny can call or text the zoo’s hotline at 757-777-7899.

So far, most of the calls the zoo has received have come from people mistaking raccoons for red pandas, The Virginian-Pilot reports.

Good luck out there, Sunny.