(Reuters) - Staff and volunteers at the Virginia Zoo were scouring nearby neighborhoods for a female red panda which may be roaming the area after she went missing from her enclosure, the zoo said.

The search was launched on Tuesday after staff at the zoo in Norfolk noticed Sunny, a 19-month-old red panda, was not in the enclosure that she shares with Thomas, a male red panda.

Sunny was last seen on Monday at 5 p.m. local time. She may have fallen from a slippery branch in her habitat while Thomas was pursuing her that night when it was rainy and windy, the zoo said in a statement on Wednesday.

A search team posted flyers and combed residential areas within a mile of the Zoo for Sunny, who may be hiding in the tree canopy.


"We encourage the community to continue their search efforts by thoroughly looking in the trees in their backyards and neighborhoods," the zoo said.

Red pandas are similar in size to a raccoon and have a reddish-brown coat of thick fur and a long tail. They are generally not considered aggressive animals, but being red panda breeding season, Sunny may be a bit agitated and hyper, according to the zoo.

"Like any wild animal its behavior can be unpredictable," the zoo said.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Richard Lough)

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