By Sydney Weil

I recently came across a list that inspired this Critter Corner.  It was Time’s list of “The 11 Most Influential Animals of 2013.”  So, here is my own list of the Top Critters of 2013:

4.  Lily the elephant. Go to YouTube and watch “Baby elephant Lily’s first year in 2 minutes.”  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.  This cute, not-so-little elephant calf will melt your heart as you watch her cavort around with the rest of the Oregon Zoo’s elephant herd and as she grows from a newborn to a playful young elephant.

3.  The olinguito.  It’s not everyday you hear about a new mammal species being discovered.  So, it made my day when I heard about the discovery of the olinguito in August, I was overjoyed.  This cute little furball joined the raccoon family with a length of about 2.5 feet and weighing in at about 2 pounds.  What makes this story even better is the fact that it hid under our noses for years because we thought they were olingos, but it turns out they are different species, so hurray for animal lovers everywhere!

2.  Baby pandas.  2013 was definitely a great year for pandas around the world.  14 cubs were born through artificial breeding at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base.  Plus, there were multiple pandas born in the U.S.  At Zoo Atlanta, twins were born for the first time in 25 years in the U.S., and at the National Zoo, a baby girl was born.  All three of the cubs have made it through their first 100 days and now have names.  All of the pandas born this year are super cute.

1.  Rusty the red panda. I’m partial to red pandas, but this resident of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  takes the cake (or the bamboo, in his case).  A huge “thank you” to Facebook for alerting me to the goings-on of this little escapee.  At first I was worried he’d been stolen and sold on the black market, but then they posted that he’d been found in the neighborhood.  Then the whole thing was just hilarious, and I made sure to go and visit him while I was in town.  Not only is he totally adorable, Rusty captured my heart with his antics.  Let’s just hope he stays put for a while now.