By Steph McNicol
AN unlikely escapee had Romsey residents on the lookout last month, as hundreds of people followed the escapades of a furry ferret.
His adventures, documented via a series of Facebook posts over five days, had residents intrigued, and finally delighted with his homecoming – some calling for a book deal and a movie in his honour.
Panda the Ferret first made his escape on a Thursday afternoon, and travelled several kilometres through the town before he was found on the following Tuesday.
Kristy, Dan and Dakota Jones were desperate for their pet to return home, as Ms Jones took to Facebook to ask for the community’s help.
Several posts were made about sightings of Panda, and some residents let him go thinking he was a wild animal.
A reward of $100 was offered and a cute photo of Panda circulated via social media, further creating interest among the people of Romsey.
Panda survived days of rain, and possible predators such as dogs, foxes, snakes and cars, along his journey.
Ms Jones was overwhelmed by the support she received from residents, but she admitted finding Panda would be like ‘finding a needle in a haystack’.
But for Panda and the Jones family, luck was on their side and Panda was located in a Romsey backyard.
The elated owners happily brought him home, where he gobbled two bowls full of food and ‘slept for about 24 hours’.
“He’s become a lot more loving since he came back,” Ms Jones said.
“We were driving around out late with the torch, in the daylight maybe we’d have a chance, but for him to turn up two-and-a-half kilometres away – it’s insane. Thank god for Facebook.”
Mr Jones said it wasn’t the first time Panda had escaped, but they made sure to keep a close eye on him after his big adventure.
“You have to watch him all the time. When I water the garden, I have to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t get out. You turn around for one second and he’s on top of a rack in the garage somehow,” he laughed.
Panda now has a collar with his name on it to ensure he returns home safely if he ever escapes again.
After the furry family member had returned home, many residents wanted to find out how he was doing.
“Everyone wants to meet him now,” Ms Jones said.
One person commented, ‘quite the celebrity Panda!’, while another said, ‘Panda you have been very naughty worrying your family like that, very glad you are home safe and sound’, and people called for Panda to have his own Facebook page.
Some residents also joked that Panda should have a movie made about him: ‘One ferret, 100 rabbits, 80 kilometres of treacherous terrain … PANDA. The story of how one ferret won the hearts of the state. Join Panda on this heart-warming journey through the huge suburb of Romsey as he takes on one rabbit after another is his fight for survival. Coming to a cinema in 2022.’