Sun(ny) is Gone! When will the Sun(ny) Return?

Sorry for the play on words, but it couldn’t be helped. After living most of my life in sunny Arizona where we averaged well over 300 sun days a year, it’s been pretty dismal in northern Kentucky where we average well over 200 cloud days a year. So far this month, we have had only three sunny days and only 5 days with just a few hours to see a small peek of sunlight, compared to 17 days of cloudy skies. I never understood why people got depressed or down from cloudy weather until moving here and going weeks on end without seeing the sun.

However, there is another Sunny that many are concerned about. Besides the Sun above being missing, Sunny the red panda is also missing from the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk.

Red pandas are unique creatures. They are the size of a raccoon and were once listed as a member of the raccoon family. Then they were moved to the bear family after DNA research, but that too was changed and now they are in a family all of their own – Alluridae.

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Unlike most carnivores, red pandas have dense fur covering their feet, similar to polar bears. They have dense coats of reddish brown fur with white or buff markings. The markings on their face is one of the reasons they were initially thought to be in the raccoon family.

They have five widely separated toes with semi-retractable claws, ideally designed for climbing and their arboreal lifestyle. They mark their territories using scent glands located between their toes in addition to anal scent glands and urine. Interestingly, they test odors, such as the scents of other red pandas, using a special cone-like structure on the bottom of their tongues, which brings the scent to a special gland inside the mouth.

Red pandas have another unique adaptation in that they have extremely flexible ankles that rotate more than most other carnivores. This feature helps them when climbing down trees head first.

In the wild, red panda’s live in high altitude temperate forest with lots of bamboo understory. They range from Burma, to Nepal, Tibet and parts of China. With only about 2,500 adult red pandas living in the wild, they are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Sunny is only 19-months old and is a very curious female. She was last seen in her enclosure at the zoo around 5pm on Monday. When zoo workers opened up on Tuesday morning, Sunny was gone. They have searched the zoo grounds but so far, there is no sign of Sunny.

Being excellent climbers, red pandas have been known to escape from zoos before. A few years ago, Rusty the red panda escaped from the National Zoo in Washington DC. He was later found wandering the streets in a neighborhood. Zoo officials believe that Rusty used some trees and a bamboo bridge to make his escape. He was eventually captured and returned to the National Zoo.

Ten years ago, the Norfolk Zoo had another red panda named Yin, escape. Yin was soon located and returned to the zoo.

Even though red pandas look very cute and cuddly, they are said to be very aggressive and dangerous, so it’s advised that people don’t try to approach or capture Sunny if they see her. Since they are a Threatened Species, it’s very important for the Norfolk Zoo officials to locate Sunny and return her to the zoo.

Hopefully, Sunny the red panda will be found soon and I’ll soon find and see the sun soon, also.

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