Located in Casa Del Campo, the Madrid Zoo is a 20 hectare park featuring more than 6000 animals from 500 different species. Many of these are animals from the onsite aquarium, one of four main areas of attraction in addition to just the zoo itself. This zoo is the only one in Europe that has so many venues within a venue, including a 3000 seat dolphinarium, an entire area devoted to all types of birds and featuring two different types of bird shows, the aquarium and of course the zoo itself.
Hundreds of years ago, the zoo wasn’t a zoo as we imagine today but in 1770 it was a way for the people of Spain to view animals brought back from the Americas. Madrid Zoo opened officially as a zoo in 1972. The zoo has all the amazing exotic creatures one would expect to find at an accredited zoo, and many not often seen but the most outstanding aspect of this park is the number of interactions offered throughout the day. There is the entertaining dolphin show, a sea lion show, and two bird shows: Amazing Free Flight Raptors and The Exotic Bird Show. In addition there are a half a dozen other more personal experiences to choose from at an extra charge.
If a visitor has small children along, the Log In Madagascar interaction offers personal interaction with unusual Lemurs, a relative of the monkey, found only on the island of Madagascar. The experience will also highlight other animals from the region, and why the ecology of the island is so unique. For elephant lovers, there is the Temple of the Elephants interaction, where guests learn what it takes to care for the largest land animal, what dangers they face in the wild, and maybe get up close and personal with one of the elephants in residence. Journey to the Antipodes takes guests into the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure to learn all about these Australian natives and Face to Face with dolphins offers just that-a close up meeting with a bottlenose dolphin. The dolphin experience also includes a short film these highly intelligent creatures, and information on what it takes to keep them healthy and happy in captivity.
One of the most thrilling experiences offered at the zoo, Diving with Sharks, is not for the faint of heart. IN the largest of the onsite aquarium tanks, visitors can view the bull sharks, nurse sharks, grey reef sharks, and even a loggerhead turtle. If getting in with the sharks isn’t the ideal experience, then the Discovering the Zoo interactive tour might be a better option, and in addition to going behind the scenes with the Rhinos and Elephants, it offers a look at the inner workings of the aquarium.
There is much to do and see at the zoo, even if a guest doesn’t want to pay extra for some of the exciting interactions offered here. One of the most popular attractions is the Panda exhibit where the zoo recently welcomed two tiny panda cubs conceived onsite. Pandas are so gravely endangered due to habitat loss that each cub represents a step closer to conserving these much beloved bears. There are four other species of bear on exhibit as well, some of which are not seen at every zoo. The American Black bear is rather common, though still great to watch, but the sun bear, the spectacled bear and the Asian Black bear are a more rare sight.
Another animal visitors should make time to visit is the Indian Rhino, and the White Rhino, related but also featuring extremely different adaptations. The Indian Rhino, a critically endangered creature, is much smaller than its “white” cousin, has skin that is tougher and looks like a suit of armor, and has a prehensile upper lip for grasping shrubs or other food. The larger “white” rhino is not white at all, but rather grey, like all rhinos. The name actually was a mispronunciation of “wide”, referring to the wide, square like mouth of this mainly grass eating herbivore. The White Rhino needs that wide mouth to eat like a living lawn mower, which would be the only way to get enough food to accommodate its large size.
The Madrid Zoo offers keeper talks throughout the day as different animals are fed, but times may vary. A daily schedule is available. And while seeing this lovely park on foot makes for an enjoyable day, certain parts of the zoo are viewable from a boat or train tour.