National Zoo Sends Red Pandas to Virginia for Breeding

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This photo shows Rusty the red panda. Rusty's mate, Shama, died Aug. 16. (Photo credit: The National Zoo)

This photo shows Rusty the red panda. Rusty’s mate, Shama, died Aug. 16. (Photo credit: The National Zoo)

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WASHINGTON — The National Zoo has moved its red pandas, including one that escaped last year, to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia for breeding.

The zoo said Thursday that the increase in visitor traffic at the nearby giant panda exhibit could disrupt the chances of successful breeding for the red pandas. Animal keepers say the red pandas named Rusty and Shama are adjusting well to their new surroundings in Front Royal, Va.

Related: Snowy Owl Hit By Bus in D.C., Taken to National Zoo

The male red panda, Rusty, escaped the zoo’s enclosure last summer and was found wandering through a residential neighborhood in Washington. An investigation found Rusty likely climbed out through the trees in his exhibit.

The zoo says it’s planning to bring one or two new non-breeding red pandas to the Asia Trail exhibit this year.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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