Two cougar rescue kittens are being carefully groomed to join "Jackson," the zoo's resident mountain lion now on exhibit.

Dinosaurs Roar at the Nashville Zoo

Paul Simon nailed it!

Once you’ve entered the gates to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere hidden among the trees and low rolling hills off Nolensville Road, I think you’ll be astounded that there are so many mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and reptiles to see. I doubt the elderly sisters who donated the 200-acre former Croft family farm could ever have imagined their home becoming the residence of hundreds of critters, much less dinosaurs. Yep, your heard right, dinosaurs.

But before I get to the main attraction of DinoTrek let me start at the beginning. The first exhibit inside the gate must be a favorite of the many permanent living showcases. Gibbon Island attracted a large crowd.

When I walked in, a pair of siamangs, a species of gibbon, were putting on a show. These guys, about three feet tall, have a throat sack they inflate to about the size of their head to create loud vocalizations. They seemed to interact with people imitating their calls. They would swing from limbs, walk a rope strung between trees and all the while “hooting.”

Up a hill and to the right is the main attraction. Along a heavily shaded path among blooming shrubs and dense woods 16 life-sized dinosaurs roared to life last March through the magic of robotics. Judging from the looks on the faces of kids lining up for their turns to stare down a bellowing T Rex, these beasties will be a major draw until their stay in Nashville ends on July 31.

While most children love dinosaurs, some small children thought it was a bit too real. I overheard one dad of three say, “Only Drew would go in.” And one young boy hollered, “Whoa!” and started backing up across the swinging bridge when he first spotted the imposing T rex.

The giant terrible lizard is the last of the animated roaring and spitting dinos – there are a few cute critters along the trial. At the end of the shady footpath, safe from the dino-rama, is a place for children to become archeologists. Dino Dig is a sandy area where children can excavate fossils; tools are provided.

Having heard stories of North American panthers, aka, mountain lions, cougars and painters, since I was a child without seeing so much as a bit of scat or footprint in my lifetime I was especially interested in seeing the zoo’s resident cougar, Jackson.

I was equally taken with other big cats like the Bengal tigers and their smaller cousins, the clouded leopards. Although these Southeast Asian natives reportedly have difficulty breeding successfully in captivity, the Middle Tennessee climate must agree with them since two leopard litters have been born this year at the Nashville Zoo.

It took about four hours to walk most of the zoo. Even if I had spent all day trying to see the 330 species, there are areas with many animals that I couldn’t have seen. As a docent said, “We don’t have enough funds to put all our animals on display. A lot of ‘em are on our back 40.” He went into detail about the breeding pair of clouded leopards as an example.

It takes a lot to run a zoo and the Nashville Zoo has plenty of land and animals but it requires more funds than presently available. Think how much an elephant eats….

The zoo is open daily except for the three yearly major holidays. For more info call 615-833-1534 or visit



Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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