Missing red panda found in Washington DC neighbourhood

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A young red panda named Rusty was recaptured about 1.6km from the Smithsonian National Zoo on Monday after disappearing overnight, the zoo said.

The raccoon-sized animal was discovered in the capital's Adams Morgan neighbourhood. Zookeepers arrived to corner and crate up the wandering panda, the zoo said in a statement.

"Rusty has returned from his trip to Adams Morgan and is getting a checkup at our vet hospital," the Smithsonian National Zoo tweeted on Monday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, a picture tweeted by local resident Ashley Foughty showed Rusty, with a long banded tail, fox-like fur and large pointed ears, atop a white face, scurrying through the leafy neighbourhood of row houses and nightspots.

Rusty, who has been on display for only a few weeks, was not in his enclosure when keepers went to feed him and his mate on Monday morning, the zoo said.

The panda arrived a few months ago from the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska. He will be a year old in July.

Rusty is paired with Shama, a 5-year-old female that in 2010 gave birth to the zoo's first red panda cub in 15 years.

Like the giant panda of China, red pandas have only a brief period once a year in which to become pregnant, according to the zoo's website. Red pandas are found in China, Myanmar and Nepal.

They are related to raccoons, skunks and weasels. The red panda is classified as a vulnerable species, or likely to become endangered unless the loss of habitat threatening its survival is halted.