The city of Madrid has had a long relationship and interest in exotic animals. The first Madrid zoo that was ever opened in Madrid did so in 1770, under King Charles III. It was known as the Casa de Fieras and it was located in Retiro Park. The old Zoo in the Retiro is now a public library, but can still be visited. Today´s Zoo is a children´s favorite in Madrid and with no doubt a must-do attraction for families visiting Madrid. Panda bears are the Zoo´s top highlight.
The current Madrid zoo is located in the “Casa de Campo”. This giant public park (the largest public park in Spain in fact) was once the royal hunting grounds, conveniently just outside the city limits.
The man behind the development of the zoo was Antonio Lleo de la Viña, who built the installations. A public contest was held to determine who would design the buildings and enclosures. The contest was won by Catalonian architect Jordi Mir Valls. The zoo officially opened its doors in 1972 during Franco’s dictatorship, and Franco himself inaugurated the park.
Fifteen years later, in 1987, the dolphinarium was built and initially held 7 bottlenose dolphins. That same year the “Mysterious Nature” enclosure was also inaugurated which features an extensive collection of amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. This enclosure would close in 2016 however due to a new law that was passed in Madrid regarding public spaces.
Then in 1995, construction began on the Aquarium. A giant glass pyramid of over 3000 square meters and home to a large number of different salt and freshwater species. In 1997 the raptor and exotic bird exhibits were added.
During the 2000s a sea lion enclosure was added as well as a southeast Asia enclosure and what has now become the park’s main attraction: a giant panda enclosure.
The Madrid Zoo is one of the most important zoos in Europe when it comes to the breeding of endangered species. The Zoo breeds pandas, western plains gorillas, giant anteaters, Sumatran elephants, grey seals, and orangutans amongst others.