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Madrid's Zoo and Aquarium


When you first arrive at Madrid's Zoo Aquarium (that's the official name, and it combines one of each on the site) it's clear that pandas are a main attraction. Cute signs tell you to smile at pandas, and the gift shop is full to the brim with stuffed versions.


Sadly, when we got to the actual pandas, their home was not really set up for visitors. Two younger pandas were visible, chomping on bamboo, which is one of their main occupations, but a glass wall made pictures difficult. But we smiled at them anyway, which they appeared not to notice...


But there is plenty more to see at the Zoo, including such rare species as the nearly extinct but now making a comeback Iberian Lynx. Small, somewhat resembling a common house cat. Part of the reason for their decline was a decline in their main prey, rabbits. A male eats about a rabbit a day, while a female feeding kittens might eat three. Rabbits are not the only prey: no petting allowed!


In no danger at all of going extinct, the Zoo is home to a large flock, or to give its fanciful collective, a large flamboyance of flamingos.


There's also a sizable group (it's either a pride of or a muster of) peacocks wandering the grounds, quite tame and, as the picture shows, quite willing to eat out of visitors' hands.


Other familiar birds are around in 'appropriate' habitats; the American Rhea (often mistaken for an ostrich or an emu) and the penguins. The penguins may seem to be on a march to somewhere, but actually they were standing still, staring up at a zoo worker above them, opening a container of fish.


Some of the birds we encountered weren't in exhibits at all; these storks have established nests on lightpoles in the zoo parking lot. Others have settled inside the zoo, atop a pillar in the elephant exhibit.


Other 'volunteers' at the zoo included this shy rabbit, a solo duck and quite a number of magpies.


But back to the water. Not far from the penguins we encountered these folks; notice the satisfied smile. I realize it's not very realistic, but I always find myself looking for expressive faces on animals.


But the biggest water attraction (and a good place for looking for human expressions on animal faces) is the dolphinarium, with its (team / pod / herd / school) of nine dolphins.


And there are the animals that fit no human concept of 'beauty,' but who all must be lovable to their peers. Just below the rhino is a takin, described as having the nose of a moose, the horns of gnu, the body of a cow and the hindquarters of a hyena. And then there's the anteater, which has no teeth and relies on its sticky tongue to collect its dinner.


Not that the bison on exhibit are conventional beauties either, but that look in his eye intimidated me from making comments in his presence...


Cute honors, though, for some members of the deer family, and the koalas...


Disney fans won't be disappointed either; classic Disney animals are in the zoo, too, including Dumbo, The Lady and The Tramp...


I waited quite a while for one of the elephants to strike a picturesque pose, preferably one without too much cage in it, but the best he was willing to do was give me a grumpy side-eye.


Cage was an issue, too, with the orangutangs, normally one of the most entertaining groups of animals in any zoo. They were out, they were playing, they were walking upside-down (top center of photo), but chicken wire defeated my efforts at photos.


My surprise favorite of the day (points for posing, grooming and overall beauty) was the (sleuth / sloth) of Eurasian brown bears. Their gorgeous coats, steady eyes and quiet dignity are attractive—but only as long as they're on one side of that moat and I'm on the other!



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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