Sunny, a 19-month-old female red panda from the Virginia Zoo caused quite the stir in Norfolk, Va., when she disappeared during mating season.
The panda exhibit at the Virginia Zoo is open-air and surrounded by tall oak trees that the panda could have easily discovered. Greg Bockheim, executive director of the zoo, told The New York Times that he thinks Sunny's flight to freedom may have been her way of escaping sexual advances from fellow red panda and habitat partner-in-crime, Thomas.
Though it certainly wouldn't be the first time a woman ditched a guy for stalking, lack of interest or disdain for one's life choices (looking at you, Melania Trump), it is also possible that she lost her footing during his aggressive pursuit. In either event, the race to find Sunny has entered its second week, and everyone wants to see her make it back to safety.
Although there have been no sightings to date, there were plenty of tips coming in on the hotline ((757) 777-7899) for stray cats and raccoons—neither of which seemed to generate much interest from Thomas.
It also appears that @SunnyRedPanda has joined the Twitter family and, as you can see, she has been rather busy updating her status and making people smile.
Despite continued efforts, workers and volunteers inside the zoo and surrounding areas have yet to catch a glimpse of their missing sweetheart. They have used bloodhounds, geothermal cameras and drones throughout their crusade, but the hunt for Thomas's apathetic counterpart is still going strong and, as you might imagine, his patience is probably wearing thin.
We seem to have a lot in common, Sunny.
Oddly enough, Sunny's sabbatical is not the first of its kind. In 2013, Rusty the red panda was apprehended less than 24 hours after fleeing his home at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington. And a few years later, three red pandas slipped out of the Hangzhou Zoo in China when a branch broke and one of them was MIA for a solid eight months.
So, it is possible for red pandas to wander suburbia without getting caught and, luckily, the climate in Virginia is cooperating with Sunny’s little excursion. As for her roommate and his insatiable desire to reproduce, it does not appear that she’s in any hurry to climb back into his cage.
Perhaps her biggest problem has nothing to do with animal endangerment and everything to do with finding a different kind of protection.