Rusty the red panda was lost and found on Twitter

While on the lam, the cute little panda bear sent the Twitter-sphere into a frenzy with trending hashtags and more than 65,000 mentions, which helped lead to his capture.

Rusty, the red panda bear. Getty Images

Rusty is safe. The little red panda that went missing roughly 24 hours ago is now back home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. But, in the interim, he caused quite a stir.

The morning after Rusty disappeared, the National Zoo tweeted, "We are looking for a missing red panda, a male named Rusty. He was last seen at 6 p.m. last night."

News outlets across the country wrote stories about the cuddly rare breed of panda that is no bigger than a house cat and has a big bushy tail. Twitter and other social media lit up with pleas for help and well wishes for Rusty. Hashtags, like #redpanda, #findrusty, and simply #rusty, began trending on Twitter.

But how was he found? Throughout the chase for Rusty, many of the clues of his whereabouts were actually spread via Twitter.

Once the National Zoo put out the word on the social network, a D.C. resident spotted him scurrying through her Adams Morgan neighborhood. She quickly sent out a photo and a tweet saying, "Red panda in our neighborhood! 20th NW and Biltmore. Please come save him!"

As the National Zoo set out in pursuit of Rusty, another D.C. resident and journalism major at the University of Maryland caught up with the trackers and live tweeted the entirety of Rusty's capture -- who was ultimately found hiding out in a tree.

"Rusty has returned from his trip to Adams Morgan and is getting a checkup at our vet hospital," the National Zoo last tweeted.

With the news that the little guy was safe and sound, the Twitter-sphere lit up again -- but this time with sighs of with relief. The Daily Beast exclaimed, "Our nightmare has ended," while Salon acknowledged that Rusty was the "cutest fugitive ever captured."

National stories tend to trend on Twitter, but they're usually political or sports-related. For example, when Usain Bolt won the 200-meter sprint during last summer's Olympics, the runner's fans tweeted a record of 80,000 tweets-per-minute . Or, during the second presidential debate last October when Twitter users still sent more than 7.2 million tweets during the nearly two hour-long debate.

While Rusty didn't make it into the thousands of tweets-per-minute range of popularity, he did get more than 65,000 mentions in the first few hours that he was announced missing and then found.

"What an adventure for Rusty! There were around 65,000 mentions of him today," Twitter spokesperson Elaine Filadelfo told CNET. "For a few hours this morning, he was even more popular than Amanda Bynes and North West."

Tweet comparison between Rusty, Amanda Bynes, and North West on June 23 and June 24, 2013. Topsy Social Analytics

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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