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Rusty the red panda went missing and ABC News was on the case

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Rusty, the red panda housed at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., went missing for a brief period on Monday morning, and while zookeepers combed the trees and surrounding area for the AWOL animal, ABC News went out ahead of the other major networks in hunt coverage with a live blog of the search. Lucky for them, the story had a happy ending: the panda was found soon after in a nearby neighborhood.

While CBS, NBC and Fox have all posted stories about the cute little creature, who got out of his enclosure sometime between 6 p.m. on Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday morning, ABC News went all-out in the Rusty story, setting up a live blog of the search.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, Washington resident Ashley Foughty tweeted zoo officials with a picture of the panda in her neighborhood, near 20th NW and Biltmore. The zoo has since announced that Rusty had been recovered, treated and was headed back to the zoo.

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At NBC News, chief White House correspondent Peter Alexander took some time out from covering other matters of national security to keep Twitter readers up-to-date on the missing critter.

Rusty made his debut at the zoo in early June, where he traveled from the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Lincoln, Neb. He has been paired with the female red panda Shama in an attempt to have them mate. While Shama had been spotted in their display area as of Monday, Rusty went missing.

Zoo officials have stated they are unsure how Rusty got out of his enclosure and had speculated that he may have been hiding in a tree, sick or dead, or was taken by a visitor.

While a missing red panda isn't on the level of importance to the Washington culture as the fugitive NSA employee Edward Snowden, the hunt for the animal seems to have captured the attention of many beltway insiders.

Newt Gingrich offered up his own bizarre alibi, tweeting, "In response to red panda charges, I have an alibi, Callista and I were feeding our pet elephants all evening ( just a joke) help find panda."

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