COLUMBUS — A red panda is on the loose after apparently escaping its habitat at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
No threat is posed by the small animal which is 19 pounds and about the size of a raccoon. The red panda also strongly resembles a raccoon in appearance.
The nocturnal animal was last spotted the evening of July 21 in her Asia Quest habitat and was discovered missing Wednesday.
An extensive search is being done of the dense vegetation in and around the habitat and throughout the zoo grounds.
Other animals living nearby within the Asia Quest habitats have been brought indoors to allow for a more intensive search by zoo personnel.
Red pandas are known for their climbing abilities and live in trees. They find tree hollows to sleep in during the daylight hours.
The strong storms overnight Tuesday into Wednesday might have caused tree branches to bend, leading to a potential path of escape, according to zoo officials.
Zoo personnel are reviewing video footage for clues and are anxious to locate the female red panda.
The red panda is the recent mother of two cubs who are still nursing. The zoo’s animal care team believes she is likely nearby and might return due to her two new cubs.
Zoo staff are setting up an overnight watch to monitor the area. Anyone who spots the red animal is asked to contact the zoo’s security dispatch at 614-582-1844.