Zoo staff realized Sheffield the red panda was missing during a routine inspection at around 8:15 a.m. Thursday, spurring a day-long search for the animal, which is a part of an endangered species native to forests on the steep mountain slopes of the eastern Himalayas.
Thursday afternoon, zoo Executive Director Sally Jacobson said Sheffield was likely hiding in one of the many dense evergreen trees on the zoo’s 32-acre grounds. Later, he would be found grooming himself in a tree near the zoo.
“We have eyes on the panda right now,” Jacobson said just after 9 p.m., as zoo staff worked to lure Sheffield down from the tree, using grapes and bamboo as an incentive for the crate-trained panda to return to the ground and into a cage.
Earlier, Jacobson said the red panda may have been “excited” to be out and about and not come back right away when called, though zoo staff were eventually able to retrieve Sheffield and return him to the zoo.
“I am extremely proud of our team and grateful for the amazing support and concern from our community,” Jacobson said early Friday.
Sheffield is one of three red pandas in captivity at the Red River Zoo, which is known globally for its success in breeding the animal, according to the zoo’s website.