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.
Spain has had a long love affair with pandas. In 1982 the first non-Chinese panda was born. Her name was Chun- Lin and was a scientific breakthrough. She was born in the Madrid Zoo and quickly became an icon to the youth of Spain.
For over a decade Chun-Lin was the crown jewel of the Madrid Zoo and the most valuable animal in the world. After she finally passed away in 1996 the Zoo maintained its panda conservation program and it has become one of the most important such programs in the world.
5 different individuals have been bred at the Madrid Zoo including the only female panda ever bred outside of China.
There are currently 4 individuals living at the Madrid Zoo. When the pandas reach maturity, they are transported back to China so they can be released back into the wild.
If you buy your tickets online it will be slightly cheaper than if you buy your tickets at the actual Zoo. General admission comes out to 21,6€ online and 24€ at the ticket window. Children and senor citizens can get in for 18,15€ online or 19,50€. Children under 3 can visit the zoo for free.
The Madrid Zoo is located in the Casa De Campo Park, just outside of Madrid’s city center.
It is quite easy to get to the Madrid Zoo on the metro. The Casa de Campo Metro station (line 10) is just 10 minutes on foot from the zoo.
You can easily spend all day at the Madrid zoo. There are over 6000 animals at the zoo and over 500 different species to see. Also, take into account that the zoo also features an impressive aquarium and several animal shows that you shouldn’t miss.
The zoo features several restaurants and kiosks as well if you don’t want to pack a lunch.
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