A wild giant panda which wandered into a southwestern Chinese city on the weekend led would-be rescuers on a day-long chase before it was captured and returned to the wild, the China Daily reported Monday.

The animal was first spotted early Saturday morning in Dujiangyuan, a city in Sichuan province, and was pursued by residents of a housing complex who initially thought it was a cat burglar, it said.

The panda managed to escape by climbing over roofs and disappearing through an iron gate into darkness.

"The panda was amazingly agile and totally different from those at the zoos," a witness, surnamed Xu, was quoted as saying.

Several hours later, police received reports that the panda had been sighted in a river, the newspaper said.

Police observed the swimming panda until it stopped to climb a tree on the riverbank, where it stayed until daybreak.

Around 10 a.m., with the help of a tranquilizer dart and rope, firemen were able to lift the panda from the tree so it could be returned home, the China Daily said.

The giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species, with fewer than 1,600 living in the wild in western China.


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