Vienna has plenty of rare sights, but perhaps none rarer than the Giant Pandas found in Schönbrunn Zoo.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, there are only about 1860 of these bears left in the bamboo forests of China. A very few live outside China in zoos, with Vienna one of these exceptions.
In 2003, the Chinese government gave “Yang Yang” and “Long Hui” to the Republic of Austria. Actually, “loaned” is a better word, with the zoo participating in the international panda breeding and research project.
Yang Yang has already given birth to three young, all now in China. In August 2016, she gave birth to twins(!), who just celebrated their second birthday.
Unfortunately, their father died in December 2016.
Where are they?
The panda enclosure is very close to the zoo’s main entrance. After the ticket barrier, go straight ahead and look to your left. There’s a large outdoor area, so you can’t miss it.
The Panda backstory
The arrival of the bears in 2003 was a major event for the country and saw the outbreak of a veritable pandamania. When the panda enclosure was thrown open to visitors for the first time, half of Vienna descended on the poor creatures.
The post office brought out special panda stamps, the Chancellor welcomed them in person and they featured on TV and radio stations throughout the land.
On the initiative of one national radio station, the two bears were rechristened Sissi and Franzl. The names refer to Emperor Franz Joseph and his famous wife, Elisabeth.
Not that the pandas themselves seemed too bothered by the fuss. They were invariably found either sleeping or eating, and viewed human proceedings with a gentle disdain.
If you do want to see the panda(s), you don’t need to worry about long queues now. Unless you visit the zoo on a hot weekend or public holiday, you should have little trouble getting a good view of the animals (assuming they are active). The exception is, of course, when a newborn is around. Because, let’s be honest, there is nothing on this planet as cute as a baby panda.