The city of Madrid, the capital and government seat of Spain, boasts hundreds of interesting sites and attractions to see, not the least of which is the Parque Zoológico de Madrid, or in English, the Madrid Zoo Aquarium. Located in the Casa de Campo, this 49 acre (20-hectare) park is one of the most popular recreational venues in Madrid and one of the largest zoos in Spain. The Zoo is owned by the city, but much like some other entertainment attractions in Spain, it is managed by the international entertainment operator Parques Reunidos. Parque Zoológico de Madrid is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Parque Zoológico de Madrid was first opened in 1770 under the name Casa de Fieras. The zoo’s original location was the Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park), located in the center of the city, and its purpose was to showcase animals from the American colonies—animals not native to Spain. The new facilities in Casa de Campo were constructed in 1972 and opened shortly thereafter, although at that time only the aquarium was hosted there. It was not until 1995 that the city opted to merge the zoo with the aquarium, and the animals and other zoo amenities were moved to Casa de Campo.
The Parque Zoológico de Madrid is a favorite spot for tourists and Madrileños alike, as is the Casa de Campo in general, which also hosts an amusement park and large lake. The zoo is home to over 6,000 animals of 500 different species, and is one of the few zoos in the world that houses Giant Pandas, an exhibit that thousands of people flock to each year just to get a glimpse of these rare animals. In addition to the animal exhibits, the park also has a large aquarium, with hundreds of varieties of fresh and saltwater marine life; a dolphin exhibit; an aviary; and a petting zoo, where children can get up close with a variety of animals and even have an opportunity to feed them.
Some of the most interesting animals featured at the Parque Zoológico de Madrid include:
- Giant Pandas. In 1978, China presented to the King of Spain two giant pandas: Shao Shao and Quian Quiang. A cub, named Chu-lin, was born in 1982 via artificial insemination—the first panda ever born in captivity in Europe using this method—but he died in 1996. Today the zoo is home to four giant pandas Bing Zing and Hua Zui Ba, who arrived in Madrid in September of 2007, along with their twin cubs Po and De De, born in September 2010 and conceived via artificial insemination.
- Koalas. The Koala exhibit is made possible through a temperature controlled environment, and the animals are fed Eucalyptus leaves brought from Huelva.
- Primates. Primates abound at the Parque Zoológico de Madrid, with exhibits showcasing Chimpanzees, Lemurs, Mandrills, Orangutans and Western Lowland Gorillas, among others.
The Parque Zoológico de Madrid is a wonderful place to visit, one that offers hours of family fun and entertainment. Tourists have the option of strolling through the park at their own pace or joining up with one of the many guided tours offered throughout the day, led by zoological staff members providing expert commentary and interesting facts about the animals in their care.