UPDATE – Rusty has been found! A woman found him roaming around yesterday afternoon and tweeted photos of him and called the zoo. He was captured around 2 p.m. and was examined back at the hospital to make sure he didn't have any injuries and didn't eat anything dangerous.
He appears to be in good health, but zoo officials have to take a hard look at his living space and figure out how he got out so that they can prevent him from getting out again in the future.
Officials began a search for one-year-old Rusty yesterday morning at 8 a.m. and took to Twitter to alert the public that he was missing.
While he isn't dangerous he could bite if he gets cornered or scared. Zoo officials tweeted that anyone who spots Rusty should keep a safe distance away, keep an eye on him and let the zoo know where he is so that professionals can capture him.
Everyone is hoping that Rusty has just found a really clever hiding spot high up in a tree canopy, but there is still the possibility that he somehow escaped or that someone took him. Red pandas are very territorial so it is very unlikely that Rusty chose to wander away from his home.
"Unless he was very motivated, he would not wander far from his habitat," said the National Zoo's spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson. "This red panda is not down on the [National] Mall."