The Red Panda That Escaped From the National Zoo Last Year Is Now a Father

A year ago, Rusty made his escape and was quickly captured. A year ago, Rusty made his escape and was quickly captured. Smithsonian's National Zoo

This time last year, Rusty was a different panda.

In late June of 2013, the red panda escaped from his home at Smithsonian's National Zoo and fled to D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Rusty had arrived at the zoo just a few weeks earlier, and his caretakers were planning to breed him with a red panda named Shama. The timing of his breakout led some jokesters to speculate whether Rusty's fear of commitment drove him to escape.

Now, Rusty seems to have become a family man. The zoo announced Wednesday that Rusty and Shama welcomed three cubs on June 26 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. The cubs appear healthy, and zookeepers are keeping a watchful eye over them via video camera.

Rusty and Shama are the latest red-panda couple at the Virginia reproductive research center to give birth to cubs in 2014—the first for Rusty. Of the 10 cubs born this year to three other pairs, seven have survived. Two were born to Sherman and Yanhua, and two to Rocco and Regan, one of whom was stillborn. Angus and Low Mei also gave birth to two cubs, but one died shortly after.

Here's an achingly adorable photo of Regan's surviving cub, who is in critical condition and receiving round-the-clock care from zookeepers.

Lest your boss catch you staring at these other cub photos on the National Zoo's Flickr page, remember: Exposure to cute animals can boost focus, attention to detail, and careful behavior.

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