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Red panda on the loose in California

Red panda on the loose in California
Pandas checked out their new home at the Sequoia Zoo Park in July 2010. (Sequoia Zoo Park)

An adorable red panda was on the loose Friday after escaping from its enclosure at the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, Calif., officials said.

Masala, a young, furry female panda, escaped her grassy riparian habitat Thursday and was last seen in the forest behind the park, sparking an intense search effort in the area, zoo and city officials said.

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The panda posed no danger to the public, but city officials advised anyone who sees the cat-sized animal not to approach it or try to capture it.

Zoo staff was concerned about the rare panda's well-being and safety. Native to the Himalayas and southwestern China, red pandas are nearly extinct because of deforestation, park officials said.

Masala and her twin sister, Cini, were born in the park on July 9, 2014, according to the zoo's website. They were birthed by Stella Luna, who was introduced to their father, Sumo, on Valentine's Day in 2013.

Four months after the couple's meeting, Móhú, the twin's older sibling, was born and later transferred to Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. Then Stella Luna became pregnant with the twins.

The couple's pairing came at the recommendation of the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, a breeding program for the sustainability of a genetically diverse and healthy population of red pandas at zoos.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA

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