The animal was spotted in some bushes near its enclosure

July 24, 2020 09:58 AM
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Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Kora is back!

The female red panda — a new mom who disappeared from her Asia Quest enclosure at Ohio's Columbus Zoo overnight on Tuesday – was found in some bushes by sharp-eyed zoo visitors on Thursday afternoon, zoo staff reported on Facebook.

"Despite [an] ongoing thorough search by Zoo staff, Kora was spotted by two guests who noticed her on the ground among dense foliage between the rhino habitat and the entrance of the Pachyderm Building in the Zoo’s Asia Quest region," the Thursday afternoon Facebook update read. "As previously suspected by her care team members, she was not far from her habitat and her cubs. The guests quickly reported their sighting to team members at 4:43 p.m., who immediately called the Zoo’s Security and Animal Health teams."

However, the animal's rescue and recovery wasn't exactly easy.

"As the team arrived to respond, Kora climbed high into a nearby tree," the Facebook update continued. "In [an] attempt to coax her down, the team brought her favorite treats and, when that did not work, they carefully brought out her vocalizing cubs. While she was attentive to their sounds and moved toward them, she remained in the tree just above the rooftop of the Pachyderm Building."

"Because rain clouds were moving into the area and the team did not want to risk prolonging her return with evening approaching, the decision was made to tranquilize her," the update continued. "She was asleep just six minutes later and at 5:56 p.m., she fell 10 feet into the waiting net of the response team."

The sleeping animal was evaluated in the zoo's animal health center, where she was given a clean bill of health, and was later returned to her habitat to reunite with her two cubs. Zoo staff had been bottle-feeding the babies with special formula in Kora's absence, though always suspected the 2-year-old animal would return to her habitat to care for her babies.

During the search, zoo staff moved other animals out of the Asia Quest habitat and combed nearby bushes and trees, expecting to find Kora — whose species is "naturally shy" — in a tree or tree hollow.

Zoo staff thanked staff and visitors for the "wonderful outpouring of support and offers of assistance" while Kora was missing.