Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been one year to the day since I last visited The Nashville Zoo.  What an absolutely glorious place!  From the moment you get out of your car your senses are greeted with the sounds of exotic creatures and jungle music.  The staff is helpful and enthusiastic!  The exhibits are clean and structured so you can get a good glimpse of the animals.  The animals here are happy.  They’re not cramped in cages but instead have lush natural habitats to roam freely in.  This is a wonderful magical place that everyone should visit at least once.

The zoo is located 6 miles south of downtown Nashville, Tennessee.  It opened in its current location on May 1, 1997.  Prior to being a zoo, this land was a farm belonging to the Croft family.

What you can expect to see at the zoo.

On a typical day you’ll see clouded leopards, giraffes, porcupines, meerkats, cougars, pandas, lemurs, bats, sloths, monkeys, kangaroos,

sloths, gibbons, zebras, owls, lorikeets, ostriches, storks, flamingos, macaws,

tortoises, lizards, snakes, alligators, lionfish, seahorses, and piranha.

There are currently four new animal exhibits being construction with anticipated opening dates this year, 2017.  They are the Andean bear, Mexican spider monkey, Sumatran tiger, and Southern white rhino.


The Andean Bear, also known as the spectacled bear or Andean short-faced bear, is the last remaining short-faced bear and only surviving species of bear native to South America.  It is technically classified as the largest land carnivore on that part of the continent, although as little as 5% of its diet is meat. Males are 1/3 larger than females in dimensions and sometimes twice their weight.  Males can weigh from 220 to 440 lbs.  Females typically weigh from 77 to 181 lbs.  Mating may occur at any time of year.  The gestation period is 5.5 to 8.5 months.  One to three cubs may be born but two is average.  Cubs are born with their eyes closed and weigh between 11 to 12 oz.  Cubs often stay with their mother for one year before going out on their own.  The species is classified as Vulnerable meaning they are likely to become endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival and reproduction improve.



Mexican Spider Monkeys are found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. The Spider monkeys live in the upper layers of the forests and forage the high canopy from 82 to 98 feet up.  They primarily eat fruits, but will also eat leaves, flowers, and insects.  They prefer the undisturbed primary rainforest and are social animals living in bands of up to 35 individuals. Because of their large size they are hunted as a food source by local populations.  In addition, their habitat is threatened by destruction due to logging and land clearing.  They are susceptible to malaria and have been used in laboratory studies of the disease. Spider monkeys are decreasing.  There are 7 genus of spider monkeys and they are classified as: 1 species Vulnerable, 4 species Endangered, 2 species are Critically Endangered.


Sumatran Tigers are a becoming more and more rare.  They inhabit the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. They are one of the smallest tiger subspecies with males weighing from 220 to 310 lbs. and females weighing from 165 to 243 lbs. Their stripes tend to disintegrate into spots.  Males have a prominent ruff which is especially marked in the Sumatran Tiger.  They are currently classified as Critically Endangered.


The Southern White Rhino is the second largest land mammal after the elephant. A typical male weighs in at 5,100 lbs. and a female at 3,700 lbs.  On its snout it has two horns.  The front horn is larger than the other one and averages 24 inches in length.  The color of this animal can range from yellowish to slate grey.  Mating occurs throughout the year with a gestation period of 16 months. Breeding females are prevented from leaving a dominant male’s territory which he marks and patrols on a regular basis.  Their preferred habitat is the grasslands and savannahas of southern Africa.  This species was almost extinct, down to 20 individuals in a single reserve in the early 20th century. They are a major conservation success story having been brought back from the very brink of extinction with an estimated 19,682-21,077 in the year 2015.  A current surge in poaching for their horns has seen record numbers killed in recent years.  Urgent efforts are under way to stop the poaching and end the illegal trade.

A little history:


The Croft home was built by Col. Michael C. Dunn in Federal style and completed around 1810.  Michael Dunn’s son-in-law, Lee Shute, purchased the farm for $10,000 in 1846 and several years later sold it to his son, William Dickson Shute for $5 as “a loving gift” to William and his new bride, Lavinia.

After the Civil War William and Lavinia renovated the home from Federal to Italianate.  Two porches were added, as well as a smokehouse, kitchen, and a three-tiered garden.  The primary crops grown were wheat, hay, corn and sweet potatoes.  In addition they raised swine and cattle.  They sold the flowers and apples from the garden allowing the farm to prosper in the 1800’s.

William and Lavinia had four daughters: Leila, Maggie, Venie and Kate.  Kate married her husband William Croft at the farm in 1888.  They had two daughters, Margaret and Elise.  William Croft moved his family to Cuba in 1902 for business  but his daughters returned every summer to visit with their grandfather and aunts.


Margaret and Elise became the last two owners of Croft Farm.  In 1964 the Croft sisters entered into an agreement with the Children’s Museum of Nashville (now The Adventure Science Center), stating that the museum would pay the property taxes and assist with the upkeep of the home while the sisters lived the remainder of their lives there.  The agreement stated that after their deaths the museum would become owners of the property and buildings with the only stipulation being that the property would be maintained as a “nature study center”, preserved to educate Nashvillians about animals and the environment. What a wonderful legacy to leave on this earth!

If you would like to learn more about the zoo and it’s happenings you can visit their website at


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