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The red panda, similar to this one at Zagreb zoo, has been described as an “outstanding climber”

Authorities are searching for a red panda that escaped from a zoo in south-eastern France.

Staff at St-Martin-la-Plaine zoo near Lyon say the endangered animal got free by scaling branches broken by recent snowfall.

It was last seen by a motorist less than 5km (3.1 miles) away, near Saint-Maurice-sur-Dargoire.

A Facebook post asked residents to keep a look out for the red panda, but warned people not to try to catch it.

“Even if it’s a little harmless animal with silky fur, it has good claws and good teeth,” the post read.

Staff described the nocturnal animal – reportedly a three-year-old male – as an “outstanding climber who is not afraid of heights”, asking people to “look up in the trees”.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, red pandas are native to the forests of the Himalayas. They can be found in Bhutan, Nepal, north-eastern India, northern Myanmar and south-western China.

The creatures are not closely related to giant pandas, despite the similar name.

Deforestation has cut their numbers, and though poaching rates have declined, the red panda is still at risk from hunters. The animals are officially classed as endangered.

Two other red pandas have been in the news this year after staging daring escapes.

Amber the panda was found “safe and well” after her escape from Belfast Zoo in January, while earlier this month a wildlife park in the Isle of Man turned to drones to help find seven-year-old panda Kush.

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Media captionRed pandas have a natural love for snow and cold weather

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