Rusty the Red Panda

Rusty the Red Panda

Updated Jun 25, 2013 at 04:07PM EDT by amanda b..

Added Jun 25, 2013 at 02:08PM EDT by amanda b..

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Rusty the Red Panda[1] is a young male red panda that resides in the National Zoo in Washington D.C.


In early June 2013, after spending a month in quarantine, Rusty was introduced to the zoo’s female red panda, Shama, in hopes that the two would mate during their next breeding season in 2014.[2] At 11:51 a.m. on June 24th, 2013, the National Zoo tweeted[3] that Rusty had gone missing and had not been seen since 6 p.m. the night before. Within 24 hours, their tweet had been retweeted more than 3,500 times. A message with additional information about the animal was posted to the National Zoo’s Facebook page[8], which was shared more than 2,200 times.

Notable Developments


Within hours of the National Zoo’s tweet, news outlets including Buzzfeed Animals[5], the Washington Post[6] and Fox News Baltimore[7] began to use the hashtag #FindRusty[4] with descriptions and photos of the panda in hopes someone would spot him. Other Twitter users, including TVLand (shown below), used the hashtag to share humorous images or to suggest places Rusty wanted to see after escaping. According to Topsy Analytics[9], the hashtag was used more than 1,000 times that day.

Parody Twitter Accounts

At 12:01 p.m., the first novelty Twitter account for Rusty, @NatlZooRedPanda[10], was launched, tweeting at the National Zoo asking if they missed him. Within 24 hours, the account gained more than 500 followers. Within half an hour of that account’s creation, @RealRustyPanda[11] also began tweeting from the perspective of the missing animal.


At approximately 1:30 p.m. actress and D.C. resident Ashley Foughty tweeted a photo (shown below) of an animal she assumed to be Rusty. She tweeted a second photo[12] a few minutes later, providing the National Zoo with her location. Dan Singer[13], a local newspaper intern, documented Rusty’s recovery with several tweets that were later compiled by Buzzfeed.[14] After being captured, he was immediately transported to the zoo’s hospital[15], where he stayed overnight. As of June 25th, zoo officials are unsure how Rusty was able to escape.[16]

News Media Coverage

Discussion of how social media users on Twitter and Facebook banded together to help track down Rusty was featured on a number of news and tech blogs on June 24th and 25th including NPR[17], Computer World[18], Cnet[19], the New York Times[20] and CBC News.[21] Additionally, Mashable[22] featured a number of tweets that compared the red panda’s excursion to whistleblower Edward Snowden‘s similar disappearance[23] after he did not show up for a flight many journalists expected him to be on. The following day, The Washington Post’s free daily newspaper juxtaposed photos of Snowden and Rusty with the captions “lost” and “found” on that day’s cover (shown below).[24]

Search Interest

[Not Currently Available]

External References

[1]National Zoo – Red Panda

[2]The Huffington Post – Rusty, The National Zoo’s Adorable New Red Panda, Makes Debut (PHOTOS)

[3]Twitter – @NationalZoo’s Rusty tweet

[4]Twitter – Tweet Results for #findrusty

[5]Twitter – @BuzzfeedAnimals’ Tweet

[6]Twitter – @WashingtonPost’s Tweet

[7]Twitter – @FOXBaltimore’s Tweet

[8]Facebook – Smithsonian’s National Zoo: The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is missing a red panda, a male named Rusty.

[9]Topsy – Tweet Statistics for #findrusty

[10]Twitter – @NatlZooRedPanda

[11]Twitter – @RealRustyPanda

[12]Twitter – @AshleyFoughty’s Second Red Panda Photo

[13]Twitter – @Dan__Singer

[14]Buzzfeed – Rusty The Missing Red Panda Has Been Found

[15]Facebook – Smithsonian’s National Zoo: Rusty has returned from his trip to Adams Morgan and is getting a checkup at our vet hospital!

[16]Facebook – Smithsonian’s National Zoo: Rusty is still at our vet hospital this morning after his escapade yesterday.

[17]NPRUpdate: ‘Rusty The Panda’ Has Been Found, National Zoo Says

[18]Computer World – National Zoo uses Twitter to find missing panda

[19]Cnet – Rusty the red panda was lost and found on Twitter

[20]New York Times – A Panda Escapes From the Zoo, and Social Media Swoop In With the Net

[21]CBC News – Red panda escapes D.C. zoo, Twitter rushes to #FindRusty

[22]Mashable – Twitter Runs Out of Red Panda Jokes

[23]The Atlantic Wire – Edward Snowden Still Missing as Plane Full of Journalists Lands in Cuba

[24]Laughing Squid – ‘Lost’ Snowden & ‘Found’ Rusty the Red Panda Juxtaposed on the Front Page of a Newspaper

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