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Panda on the Run: Search Intensifies for Extremely Rare Red Panda After It Escapes From Zoo

Playing Panda on the Run: Search Intensifies for Extremely Rare Red Panda After It Escapes From Zoo

Four days after Sunny the 19-month-old red panda escaped from the Virginia Zoo, her disappearance has raised serious concern, leaving officials on a desperate search to find the animal.

Read: Triple Trouble: Three Colorful Squirrels Born Inside British Zoo

The animal is an endangered species and search parties and volunteers are searching high and low to find her. Norfolk police are also helping with the search for Sunny, using a thermal camera.

Sunny was last seen in the red panda habitat at Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. It's mating season, and officials think she was on a branch being pursued by an amorous male red panda when she fell and landed outside the enclosure.

"I think there is a lot of food for her, it has been raining around, there is good freshwater around," zoo executive director Greg Bachman told Inside Edition: 

He added that some of the sightings have "not been reliable," with most people mistaking the panda for a raccoon. 

The search is centered on a one-mile radius around the zoo which includes residential neighborhoods, a park, and a cemetery.

The zoo has even sent out an alert on Twitter.

Red pandas are smaller than the black-and-white pandas that are so beloved. There are less than 10,000 animals like Sunny in the world today.

Read: Rare Horse Attacked by Mountain Lion as He Was Being Born Is on His Way to Recovery

The zoo urges anyone who sees Sunny not try to feed, pet or capture her.

This also isn’t the first time a red panda has escaped from the zoo.

In 2015, “Fluffy” escaped from the Sequoia Park Zoo in California. A resident later spotted the animal near her home and she was coaxed down from a tree and returned to the zoo.

Watch: Have You Seen Her? Red Panda Vanishes From Virginia Zoo Overnight

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