A Living World Treasure Right Here at Home

Like the two-toed sloth obscured by the living flowers and hanging vines of the aviary, much of Nashville Zoo remains hidden to the casual observer. Look deeper! Ranked among the top five zoos in the world by renowned American zookeeper Jack Hanna, Nashville Zoo is indeed an outstanding place to take the kids to learn and play, but it is also an oasis of hope, an institution of experts dedicated to conservation and education.  

Feel for yourself the amazingly soft fur of red kangaroos in this unique enclosure, a marvelous marsupial meet and greet where the land from down under becomes part of the Athens of the South. With about a dozen flyers (female kangaroos) inside, there are plenty to pet including Ura, the oldest and largest at a solid 64 pounds. Several staff members are always on hand to answer questions and ensure everyone’s safety, regardless of whether you use your two legs for walking or for hopping.

“This walk-through exhibit is staff-intensive,” observes Nashville Zoo’s Marketing and Public Relations Director Jim Bartoo, “but the excellent guest experience is well worth it.”

It takes a village — a Peruvian one, to be exact — to provide the perfect place to view the Andean bear. Nashville Zoo’s newest exhibit, Exhibition Peru: Trek for the Andean Bear, opened in March and features three Andean bears, a species whose native range stretches from Venezuela to Bolivia. Other animals present in this exhibit include the white-blotched river stingray and the southern pudu, a diminutive deer species that measures just 14 to 17 inches in height at the shoulder. The exhibit recreates the look and feel of an indigenous Peruvian village complete with a guinea pig pen and provides several unobstructed viewing points of the bears, including one from below the waterline of their pool. The ladies’ room even features a view of the cotton-top tamarin, an endangered South American primate.  

While native to the forests of southeast Asia, the beautiful clouded leopard is a species often associated with the Nashville Zoo. This is because the Nashville Zoo is a recognized world leader in the conservation of this vulnerable species. From field research to captive breeding programs — 31 cubs have been born in 18 litters in Music City since 2009 — Nashville Zoo helps ensure the clouded leopards’ survival. It isn’t cheap. Each cub must be raised by hand, a technique that prevents parental predation and habituates each animal to human interaction. By visiting and observing these animals face to face, guests help support these critical conservation efforts.

The Nashville Zoo is a perfect place to experience other species in their amazing complexity. But if the sight of giraffes raising their heads high in the sky or of spider monkeys swinging with their prehensile tails from the limbs of trees makes you a bit, well…jealous, then thank your own capacity for human intelligence to be able to construct cool stuff like the Soaring Eagle Zip Line. This experience takes you and a friend over the tops of the trees — 110 feet up, high enough to see the downtown skyline — before letting you go to swoosh safely back to the ground at a brisk 28 miles per hour. Take that, giraffes!