Since welcoming its first visitors in 1991, Nashville Zoo has grown from a small, start-up operation in Cheatham County to its current status as an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited member facility with international conservation involvement.
An original land grant of 272.5 acres, passed down through five generations of family, ultimately became a family farm known as Grassmere. Sisters Margaret and Elise Croft, last of the descendants, gifted the land to the Children's Museum of Nashville to be used as a nature center. Grassmere Wildlife Park opened on the site in 1990; one year later Nashville Zoo opened in Joelton, TN. The museum closed Grassmere in December 1994 due to financial difficulties, and the land became the property of the city of Nashville. The Mayor and Metro City Council believed the best plan to preserve Grassmere and meet the needs of the community, while still honoring the will of the Croft sisters, was to turn over the management and development of the property to Nashville Zoo. City fathers also saw educational and tourism benefits in supporting the Zoo's relocation. Nashville Zoo assumed management of the city owned property in December 1996 with a 40 year lease, and in 1997 Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere opened to the public. Thousands of volunteers joined together to build the 66,000 square foot Jungle Gym, which is the largest community built playground in the country. The Croft sisters' ca. 1810 ancestral home, which remains on the property and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, underwent a complete restoration in conjunction with Metro Nashville Parks and opened to the public in 1998 as an historic house museum. Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere officially became Nashville Zoo at Grassmere in 2001. And in 2004, the Zoo received accreditation from the AZA.
Nashville Zoo strives to create a
world-class zoological park with a strong commitment to education, species
conservation and habitat protection. Major goals include providing an
entertaining and educational experience, increasing the public's understanding
and appreciation of the natural world around them, promoting public awareness
of animals and conservation issues, and providing the highest code of ethics in
the humane care and welfare of our animals.
Nashville Zoo’s commitment to
education cannot be overstated. The Zoo provides a unique opportunity to connect children and adults with animals from different parts of the world and educate them about native habitats and conservation. Historical education is also provided to Zoo guests, as they visit the Grassmere Historic Home and Farm. In 2015, over 220,130 individuals participated in educational programs at Nashville Zoo. In addition, through outreach into the community, our Animal Ambassadors visited over 14,700 individuals, providing animal presentations and educational materials. Nashville Zoo provides youth programs
for children of all ages, from preschoolers to high school students interested
in animal health careers. Summer camps and Scouting events give children even
more opportunities to relate to the natural world. The Zoo further provides inclusive programming for children with special needs through our Autism Awareness Day and Zooper Heroes Camp. Education efforts are
not limited to children, as the Zoo's Animal Ambassadors and Wildlife on Wheels outreach programs
enable the Zoo to share the natural world with the community. Through these programs, Nashville Zoo partners with Nashville Public Libraries, Head Start Centers, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Alignment Nashville, the Pencil Foundation, and senior centers in and around Davidson County.
Nashville Zoo also partners internationally on conservation efforts. The Zoo is actively involved
in research, habitat protection, breeding programs and education initiatives
around the globe as well as in its own backyard. The Zoo has been instrumental
in the conservation and propagation of clouded leopards, giant anteaters, Eastern
hellbenders and Puerto Rican crested toads. In addition to conservation work
here at home, Nashville Zoo is actively supporting in-situ conservation in a
host of countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Vietnam, Brazil, Bolivia
and Guyana. The Zoo contributes to programs supporting a number of species in
the wild including gorillas, giant armadillos, tigers, tapirs, red pandas,
rhinos and elephants.
Zoo is just one of a handful of the 218 accredited zoos that do not receive
ongoing operational support from their local municipalities. Because of this,
Nashville Zoo relies on private and corporate donors along with our earned
revenue to fund all aspects of the day to day operations of the Zoo. In addition to daily operational costs, funding
is also needed to support educational programming, conservation efforts, and
Zoo is comprised of 188 acres, making it the ninth largest zoo in the country
by land mass. With only 84 of these
acres currently developed, the Zoo has a unique opportunity for growth. We have recently embarked on a $163 million comprehensive capital campaign to develop the remainder of the property. The Zoo is seeking individuals, foundations,
and corporate partners who will join the city of Nashville and several lead
contributors in helping make the dream of a world-class zoo become a reality. The
plan calls for expanding animal exhibits and providing additional guest
amenities, while continuing as a leading resource for education, conservation,
and recreation in the Middle Tennessee community.
Zoo is a dynamic and progressive zoological park featuring world-class animal
habitats along with a year-round calendar of events and educational
programs. Our Zoo specializes in natural
immersion exhibitry which transports guests into a multi-sensory adventure at
each habitat, utilizing horticulture from the native geographical locations,
soothing sounds from the region, and natural, invisible barriers whenever
possible. Nashville Zoo is home to over 2200 individual animals that
represent 365 different species. In addition to the educational and
entertainment offerings provided for the local community, Nashville Zoo is also
a leader in developing multi-national partnerships to support environmental and
species protection in Asia, Africa, South America and North America.
relocating the park in 1997 to the Grassmere property, we have seen attendance increase
by over 1000%, and facilities that were designed and built in the late 1990’s
can no longer efficiently accommodate our visitors. The Zoo is in the
process of building a new entry road that will take our existing two lanes to
four lanes and will dramatically improve vehicular ingress and egress. We
are also in the process of expanding our ticket booth and visitor services
amenities to more efficiently handle existing crowds and
future anticipated attendance as major new exhibits come to fruition.
Additional infrastructural needs include increased parking, trams, expanded
educational space, a new veterinary hospital, additional public restrooms and
concession facilities, office expansions and a new and enlarged gift
shop. Infrastructural improvements on this scale will require government
support both on the local and state levels so we can continue to create state
of the art new exhibitry and maintain our status as one of the most popular
tourist attractions in Middle Tennessee.
Nashville Zoo strives to create a world-class zoological experience for visitors, while creating the best possible habitats for our animal collection. When designing animal exhibits, Rick Schwartz, Zoo president, considers the needs and wishes of visitors and donors, as well as staff and animals. Nashville Zoo has developed over 28 new animal habitats since moving to the Grassmere property, including Kangaroo Kickabout, the African Elephant & Giraffe Savannahs, Bamboo Trail, and Flamingo Lagoon. Spider monkey and Andean bear exhibits are in development, along with a renovation and expansion of the tiger exhibit. Future plans involve the addition of a gorilla habitat and an Africa-themed exhibit with lions, hippos, rhinos, cheetah, giraffe, and numerous primate and bird species. Nashville Zoo is internationally known for developing barrier-free exhibits that mimic an animal's natural habitat. The Zoo gives visitors a unique opportunity to learn about species from around the globe.
Committed to inspiring connections with nature, the Education Department realizes that people learn in different ways and leverages this knowledge with diverse programming. Every year, the Zoo's Education Programs reach over 230,000 children and adults. Starting as early as 18 months and carrying into adulthood, the department provides a progression where audiences can "grow up" with the zoo. Programs for individual age groups such as Zoo Tots, Zoo Teens, camps and scouting adventures are offered in fun, informative and engaging ways. School programs, aligned with State Standards, feature live animals and activities and are presented at the Zoo or schools. Outreach programs also travel to libraries, hospitals, nursing homes and daycares. Opportunities extend to high school and college students through internships, and adults are engaged through the volunteer and docent programs.
The Clouded Leopard Consortium (CLC) is a collaborative effort between Nashville Zoo, Thailand Zoological Parks Organization, Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Point Defiance Zoo and the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). Advancements have been made by the CLC to develop a viable clouded leopard breeding program out of the country of origin, create a long-term conservation plan in the country of origin and build capacity for husbandry, research, education and wildlife monitoring. To date over fifty cubs have been produced in Thailand, making this the most prolific breeding facility in the world for this endangered cat. And after a ten year hiatus of there being no clouded cubs born in North America, Nashville Zoo has been extremely successful in reproducing multiple litters. In 2012, we produced more cubs than all of the world's zoos combined, which has virtually saved the North American captive population from extinction.
Nashville Zoo is actively involved in research, habitat protection, breeding programs and education initiatives around the globe. As a founding member of the Clouded Leopard Consortium, Nashville Zoo has been instrumental in the conservation and propagation of clouded leopards. The Zoo is also the leader in innovative anteater care and has literally written the book on husbandry guidelines for this species. Using groundbreaking biotechnology, Nashville Zoo was the first organization in the world to breed Eastern hellbenders. Nashville Zoo is also successfully breeding thousands of Puerto Rican crested toads and releasing them into protected areas of their native land. Nashville Zoo actively supports in-situ conservation in a host of countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Vietnam, Brazil, Bolivia and Guyana. The Zoo contributes to programs supporting a number of species in the wild including gorillas, giant armadillos, tigers, tapirs, red pandas, rhinos and elephants.
Rick Schwartz has been heavily involved in the world of
conservation for almost thirty years. He is known internationally for his
expertise in big cats and for his personal devotion to the preservation of the
highly endangered clouded leopard. In 1989, Mr. Schwartz lent his expertise to
a group of Nashvillians intent on creating a local zoo. Since then he has been
the director and primary architect of Nashville Zoo, building facilities,
designing the exhibits and working extensively with other zoos throughout the
country to develop the outstanding collection of species represented at
Nashville Zoo. He is a leader in conservation both
around the world and in Tennessee. Mr. Schwartz’s relationships globally with
animal experts have allowed Nashville Zoo to successfully import some of the rarest
species in the world for the first time in decades, thus creating new genetic
pools for the United States captive population. As a leading expert in zoo design, development and maintenance, Mr.
Schwartz’s utilization of current resources and creativity are an asset to the
organization. He devises solutions and utilizes his talents to conceptualize,
create and execute the building of exhibits at a fraction of the cost without
sacrificing innovation and best-of-class practices. His knowledge of animal
care and husbandry, landscape and horticulture, building materials and
contracting has kept the Zoo from incurring the expense of hiring outside
contractors and consultants. Mr. Schwartz's exhibit designs have been
featured on Animal Planet's Ultimate Zoo series, and zoo professionals from
around the world come to Nashville to consult on his innovative designs. Prior to his work with Nashville Zoo, Mr. Schwartz owned
an exhibit planning and design firm along with numerous business ventures
working with domestic and exotic animals, including an endangered species
breeding facility well known for its unparalleled success in breeding clouded
leopards and other endangered species.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Pet overpopulation is the most serious issue facing domesticated animals in Middle Tennessee. Many ongoing animal-related issues – including dog bites, disease, animal hoarding, cruelty to animals, and high euthanasia rates in shelters – ultimately stem from overpopulation, which has posed a complex dilemma in Middle Tennessee and across the country for decades.
More attention has been brought to this issue in the last 15 years, and many nonprofit groups in Middle Tennessee are working to offer low-cost spay/neuter services. Some government-funded animal-control programs also offer spay/neuter and adoption services.
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3833 Cleghorn Avenue, Nashville, TN 37215