(CNN)The red panda who went missing from her habitat at a Columbus, Ohio, zoo is back home.
Kora, the 2-year-old red panda, was found Thursday evening, according to The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
The zoo had announced on Wednesday that the diminutive, raccoon-like creature had gone missing. Zookeepers who care for her had hoped she would return on her own, since she recently gave birth to two cubs who are still nursing.
Instead, Kora was spotted by two guests on Thursday evening, the zoo said in a Facebook post. They saw her among the dense foliage between the rhino habitat and the entrance to the Pachyderm Building in the Zoo's Asia Quest region, the zoo said. The guests alerted the zoo authorities who rushed to the scene.
But, Kora wasn't about to give up her new found freedom easily. She climbed high into a nearby tree as they arrived, the zoo said in its post. The team brought her favorite treats to coax her down, and when that didn't work, they brought out her cubs.
While she responded to the cubs' cries and moved towards them, she remained in the tree. And, as rain clouds were moving into the area the zoo team made the decision to tranquilize her, the zoo said.
Kora gently fell into the waiting net of the response team amid clapping and happy tears, the zoo said. The sleeping red panda was placed in her crate and taken to the Zoo's Animal Health Center for evaluation, where she was given a clean bill of health.
Kora is now back at her habitat in Asia Quest, where she will reunite with her cubs when she wakes up. Her care team will continue to watch her overnight to ensure she is well, and red panda father, General Tso, will join them in the morning, the zoo said in its post.
A daring escape
Kora was last seen in her habitat on Tuesday, according to the Columbus Dispatch. When she went missing zoo staff conducted an "extensive search in the dense vegetation" near her home in the zoo's Asian wing, meant to replicate her native bamboo forest habitat.
The male red panda who shares her enclosure was secure, the zoo said. The strong storms overnight Tuesday into Wednesday might have caused tree branches to bend, leading to a path of escape for Kora, according to zoo officials.
Rain has played a part in the previous escape of a red panda: In 2013, a young red panda named Rusty escaped his enclosure at Washington's National Zoo and made it a half-mile away until he was recovered the same day. Zookeepers believe he escaped through the tree canopy in his enclosure, which sagged during the rain.
The zoo had said Kora was not a threat to the public as red pandas are gentle creatures that mostly sleep in trees during the day. And Kora's keepers say she's quite shy and easily spooked.
Red pandas aren't really pandas at all, though they're thought to be related to the giant pandas they share their dense bamboo forest with in central and southwest Asia. Red pandas belong to their own unique family, separate from raccoons (though they bear a striking resemblance).
The creatures with the striped red tails are considered endangered largely due to habitat loss, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.