The Madrid Zoo yesterday celebrated its 50th anniversary with a visit by Queen Sofía and the first public outing of the giant panda twins ‘Youyou’ and ‘Jiujiu.’
The twins, who were born last September, are the latest in a line of pandas at the zoo going back 34 years.
The first were gifts and saw their appearance in Madrid following the first ever visit by Spanish heads of state to China in 1979, when the queen accompanied king Juan Carlos.
The 1970s was the era of panda diplomacy as China made its first steps in opening up to the west.
Yesterday´s ceremony was also attended by the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Wu Haitao; the Madrid regional premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso as well as the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez Almeida.
The Chinese ambassador said the pandas were a symbolic species “which represent the friendship and cultural exchange between China and Spain and whose names, Youyou and Jiujiu, symbolize Best wishes for friendship between both countries”.
2023 will also mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Spain, which the ambassador remarked made this a “good opportunity to jointly take this strategic partnership between the two countries to a new level.”
The young twins who were closely watched over by their mother Hua Zui Ba on their first public outing now weigh 15 kilos, compared to just 137-171 grams when they were born.
They were the first pandas born at the zoo since 2016.
Madrid´s zoo which was opened in June 1972 is home to 333 species in its 22 hectares and plays a leading part in conservation and study of animals especially those in danger of extinction and runs 63 programmes across the world including that for the conservation of the white and Indian rhinoceros as well as the Borneo orangutan and imperial eagle.