Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear

Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear

Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear

Nashville Zoo officially opened its newest exhibit, Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear, on March 15, with a ribbon cutting celebration sponsored by Middle Tennessee Honda Dealers.

The addition of Andean bears marks the first time this species has ever been housed at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere in its entire 21-year history.  

Colorful Andean Bear Logo


From the moment guests step into this new feature, they are enveloped in an authentic, indigenous village featuring a Peruvian lodge, courtyard with seating areas, lush vegetation and beautiful wood, stone and metalwork.

Visitors get an unobstructed view of the bears from several observation points, including one underwater. The Peruvian lodge contains interactive educational displays where guests can learn about a variety of South American animals and also boasts spectacular views of these bears no matter where they are in the exhibit. 

Outside this facility, guests have the opportunity to observe the bears through side viewing areas and can even watch a keeper train the bears up close.

Similar to the boelen's python exhibit in the men's restroom in Entry Village, the Andean village women's restroom features a floor-to-ceiling exhibit of cotton-top tamarins, a primate species indigenous to South America. 



The Peruvian village not only includes Andean bears, but is also the home of pudu (the world’s smallest deer), guinea pigs and fresh water stingrays.

Andean Bear

Andean Bear

The Andean bear is South America’s only bear species and is native to Andean countries from Venezuela to Bolivia. They are often referred to as the "spectacled bear" due to the light colored markings around the bear's eyes. They are considered to be the most herbivorous of all bear species, eating fruit, bromeliads, grasses, cactus flowers and small animals. They are also the most arboreal bear species and build leafy platforms in trees to feed and sleep.

Andean bears have lost 90% of their original habitat due to mining, farming and lumber, and are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to this habitat destruction and poaching. There are only 37 Andean bears in United States zoos, two of which are here in Nashville.


Southern Pudu

The southern pudu is one of the world's smallest deer, measuring just 14-17 inches in height at the shoulder. Pudus are normally solitary but may travel in small groups of 2-3 to feed. Pudu are highly selective feeders, eating leaves of ferns, trees, vines, herbs, and shrubs. Southern pudus play an important role in their habitat, as they build and maintain tunnels in the underbrush, allowing other small animals to pass through and remain undetected by predators.

The southern pudu is considered to be Near Threatened in the wild, as their population continues to decrease due to the introduction of domestic dogs in their range, vehicular accidents, the introduction of other cervid species, parasite infection, being hunted for their meat and fur, and habitat loss from human land use.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs

Though they no longer exist in the wild, guinea pigs are indigenous to South America, with fossil records dating back to 9,000 B.C. Domestication began around 5,000 B.C. for food by tribes in the Andean region of South America. Guinea pigs remain a popular food source in South America, particularly in the Andes Highlands of Peru and Bolivia. Guinea pigs require less room than traditional livestock and reproduce quickly, making them a great source of food and income.

Tamarin Monkey

Cotton-top tamarin

The cotton-top tamarin is one of the most endangered South American primates and gets its name from the mane of white fur around its face. This species lives in the forests of Colombia and are about 9 inches long. They eat fruits, flowers, nectar, plant gums, saps, and latex, as well as small animal prey. The cotton-top tamarin is listed as critically endangered due to deforestation and the pet trade. Nashville Zoo is part of AZA's cotton-top tamarin Species Survival Plan.


Freshwater stingrays and fish

The ocellate river stingray and white blotched river stingray are two of the most uniquely colored stingrays - both feature distinctive spots that help them camouflage into riverbeds. The biggest threats to these stingrays in the wild are fishing, the ornamental fish trade, and habitat degradation. These stingray species will also share their exhibit with the silver arowana, a large predatory fish that usually feeds on smaller fish, but can even jump out of the water to catch large insects. All three species are found in the Amazon River basin in South America.  



Nashville Zoo is a strategic partner of the Andean Bear Conservation Alliance to address the remaining wild population of Andean bears. The Zoo financially supports Andean bear conservation through the Wildlife Conservation Network and cotton-top tamarin conservation through Proyecto Titi.

We also participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for Andean bears, cotton-top tamarins, and white blotched river stingrays to ensure the genetic diversity in these species' captive populations. 

Andean Bear Conservation Alliance Logo
Proyecto Titi Logo
Species Survival Plan Logo
Wildlife Conservation Network Logo


“The Zoo is an important asset for Nashville, and we, along with our fellow Nashvillians, love it,” said John Ingram, donor of the exhibit. “We have long admired Rick Schwartz, and his enthusiasm for the Andean Bear exhibit was infectious. Nashville Zoo continues to grow in stature – nationally and internationally, and Stephanie and I appreciate having the chance to help make this growth possible.”

The generous donors that helped fund Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear are: Stephanie and John Ingram; The Frist Foundation; Dugas Family Foundation; Speer Foundation; Andrea Waitt Carlton Family Foundation; Andrienne and Richard McRae III & the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation; Cynthia and David Arnholt; Barbara and Rick Turner Jr.; Kim, Charles and Charlie Crews; Julie and Breck Walker; Kent, Nora and Emme Kirby; and Sally and Neely Coble III.