LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Rusty the red panda, the cute and furry critter famous for his 2013 escape from his enclosure at the National Zoo, is now a dad.

He and mate Shama are the latest red pandas to become parents at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.

Keepers watched Shama give birth to a litter of three cubs on June 26 via closed-circuit cam and have been monitoring the family closely ever since.

All four pairs of red pandas living at SCBI gave birth to cubs this year. Seven out of 10 survived, making 2014 a record year for SCBI. Seven is the most cubs ever born at SCBI in one year.

Including the birth of Shama and Rusty’s cubs, more than 100 red pandas have been born at SCBI in the last 40 years.

According to the National Zoo, red pandas have historically lived in the shadow of giant pandas, but they were actually the first of the two species to be discovered, and to be called “panda.” In the past, red pandas have been classified with the bear family (which includes giant pandas) and with procyonids (a family that includes raccoons). Today, however, they are classified as the sole species in family Ailuridae.


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