Sign at zoo entrance
|Date opened||1990 (as Grassmere Wildlife Park)|
|Location||Nashville, Tennessee, USA|
|Land area||200 acres (81 ha)|
|No. of animals||6,230|
|No. of species||339
The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a zoological garden and historic plantation farmhouse located 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Downtown Nashville. As of 2014, the zoo was middle Tennessee's top paid attraction and contained 6,230 individual animals, encompassing 339 species. Its site is about 82 acres (33 ha) with an additional 106 acres (43 ha) available for expansion. It is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Nashville Zoo's history at Grassmere began in the late 1980s. Sisters Margaret and Elise Croft were the last two owners of the Croft House and family farm at Grassmere, located six miles south from downtown Nashville. They donated the 300-acre farm to the Children's Museum of Nashville, which is now the Adventure Science Center. After Elise Croft's death in 1985, the museum began development of a wildlife park, which opened there in 1990. Meanwhile, the separate Nashville Zoo opened in Joelton in 1991. By 1995, the museum decided to close the Grassmere Wildlife Park. Ownership of the land went to the city, which was still bound by the Croft sisters' will to maintain the area as a nature center. In 1996, then-Mayor Phil Bredesen offered the Nashville Zoo the chance to relocate from Joelton to the Grassmere property. On May 1, 1997, the Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere opened to the public. In October 1998, the zoo closed its Cheatham County location to focus all of its efforts on the current Grassmere property. In 2001, the Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere officially became the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. The resulting facility has been engineered to grow so as to take maximum advantage of its 200 acres (81 ha).
On the grounds of the zoo facilities, the property still maintains the original historic plantation house, called Grassmere or the Historic Croft Home.
Visitors to the zoo can tour this 19th-century historic house museum, its gardens and the associated Grassmere Historic Farm.
Nashville Zoo's Jungle Gym is a 66,000-square foot playground featuring a 35-foot tall tree house structure, super slides, cargo netting, swings, and a giant snake tunnel. In 1998, thousands of volunteers worked together to build this array of climbing structures for children. The Jungle Gym is the largest community-built playground in the United States.
As you enter the Zoo, two islands covered with various trees and bushes are home to siamangs and white-cheeked gibbons. Throughout the day you may hear their distinctive calls greeting visitors as they enter the Zoo, all while climbing and swinging through the treetops.
The meerkat exhibit, opened in 2002, features a mob of extremely social meerkats. Visitors can view them through a plexiglass wall or through a cylindrical window within the exhibit to get a meerkat's-eye view of the colony as they dig through an expansive network of underground tunnels.
In 2006, a giraffe exhibit was opened when the zoo acquired three Masai giraffes, a male and two females. These are three of only 55 Masai giraffes in the United States as of 2006. Technically, the animals are on loan from three other zoos, but are permanently housed at the Nashville Zoo. Another female giraffe was added in 2015. The giraffes live on a savannah which is a 1.5 acre area that includes shade trees and tall grasses preferred by the animals. This is contiguous with an elephant savannah, which gives zoo visitors a landscape of African plains. In bad weather, the giraffes have use of a 4,800 square foot facility for shelter.
In 2015, The Nashville Zoo Opened a Zip line attraction called Soaring Eagle.
The zoo is active in numerous research and conservation activities including participating in a number of the programs in the Species Survival Plan which is managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Beginning in 1991, the zoo began breeding the endangered snow leopard, the clouded leopard, the red-ruffed lemur, and the black and white-ruffed lemur with ongoing plans to include many other species.