Vienna has plenty of rare sights, but perhaps none rarer than the Giant Pandas found in Schönbrunn Zoo.
According to the WWF, less than 1900 wild bears still survive in the bamboo forests of China. A very few live outside China in zoos, with Vienna one of these exceptions.
- A female panda, Yang Yang, and a male panda, Yuan Yuan
- A lovely bear-friendly enclosure
- What can you say? Pandas come top of the cute scale
- Zoo opens daily. Adults pay €22* at the time of writing
- See also: Schönbrunn Zoo | How to get to Schönbrunn
Where are the pandas?
Make your way through the park at Schönbrunn to the zoo’s main entrance in the northwest corner of the complex. After the ticket barrier, go straight ahead down the tree-lined avenue in front of you,
To your left is a kind of visitor centre, then a long building with koala bears and, after that, the Giant Panda enclosure: a building with a large outdoor area beyond it.
Incidentally, the enclosure on the far side of the outdoor part provides a home for pandas of a different kind: the red version.
The Panda backstory
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 had several cubs, most recently twins in 2016. Like all her offspring, Fu Feng and Fu Ban now reside in China. Astonishingly, she’s the first panda ever to successfully raise twins without outside help.
Unfortunately, the father of all these cubs, Long Hui, died in December 2016. His replacement, male panda Yuan Yuan, emerged for public viewing at the end of May 2019.
The arrival of the original bears was a major event for the country and saw the outbreak of a veritable pandamania. When the panda enclosure opened 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 refered 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 pandas, 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 them (assuming they are active and the house is open).
The exception is, of course, if Yang Yang has another cub. Because there is no magnet for zoo visitors quite like a baby panda.
(Press photo © Daniel Zupanc)
Obviously, Schönbrunn Zoo participates in plenty of research initiatives, and one recent example involved a study of animal yawning times and its relation to brain capacity and activity (yawning cools the brain).
According to researcher Margarita Hartlieb, the giant panda yawn lasts an average of 4.28 seconds. So now you know.