Mammals are one class of animals that have backbones, are warm-blooded, breathe air and whose females have milk-secreting glands for their young. In the class Mammalia there are 19 orders and over 5,000 species of mammals, ranging from the 2-inch shrew to the 120-foot whale. Below are the mammal species that call Nashville Zoo home.

  • Alpaca

    Central/South Andes Mountains

    Plateaus near wet, grassy areas

    Least concern

    Up to 24 years

    Up to 140 lbs, 3 ft tall

    Leaves, wood, bark, stems

    Long ago, alpaca had a very wide range of habitat in South America that began to shrink with the arrival of explorers. Alpacas can come in up to 22 colors. A dominant male alpaca will have a group of up to 10 females and breeding will occur once a year with 1 calf being born. Alpacas have been domesticated and are popular on farms for their fur, which is sheered similar to sheep. You can see our Alpaca in Critter Encounters.
  • Baird's Tapir

    Southern Mexico to Northern South America

    Swamps, mangroves, rain forests, woodlands


    Up to 30 years

    330-660 lbs, 4 ft tall, 8 ft long

    Leaves, fruit, twigs, flowers, grasses and sedges

    Baird’s tapirs are one of four species of tapirs. Three species live in Central and South America and one species lives in Asia. The upper lip of the tapir forms a proboscis similar to an elephant’s trunk. This is used to help them collect their food as they browse. Tapirs are born brown with white stripes and spots to help with camouflage and turn solid brown with age. Tapirs will poop in nearby bodies of water to hide their scent from predators. You can see our tapirs along the Jungle Loop.

    We participate in the Baird's tapir Species Survival Plan.

  • Bontebok

    South Africa


    Least Concern

    17-23 years

    Up to 175 lbs, 5 ft


    The bontebok was nearly extinct in the wild but the creation of Bontebok National Park and breeding on game farms led to the current population of over 2,000 existing throughout southern Africa. Their current conservation status includes the closely related blesbok of which 250,000 exist. They graze during the day on grasses in small groups of about 10. Males will mark their territory with dung and participate in challenge rituals with neighboring males. Both males and females will grow horns. You can see our bontebok on the African Plains.
  • Clouded Leopard

    Parts of Southeast Asia

    Tropical Forests


    13-15 years

    24-50 lbs, 78 in long

    Birds, fish, deer, small primates, rodents

    Clouded leopards are the top predators in their range and help control populations of prey species. They are solitary hunters active largely at night. Similar to other leopards they are great climbers and can usually be found in trees which they use to hunt and as resting places. Little is known about their breeding behavior but it is thought that they can mate year round. You can visit our clouded leopards on the Bamboo Trail.

    We are a founding member of Clouded Leopard Consortium and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • Cougar

    North & South America

    Forests, grasslands, brush

    Least Concern

    14 years

    Up to 140 lbs, 5 ft


    Cougars, also known as pumas or mountain lions, are solitary animals mostly active at night. At one point, cougars had the largest range of any mammal in North and South America. With the increase in human population that range has shrunk to mostly mountainous regions of the western United States. Males will have a home range of about 150 square miles which will include several females. Cougars will not mate until they have their own territory and then breeding can take place year round. Females will have 1-6 cubs and breed every 2 years as cubs can remain with their mother for more than a year. Cougars can catch large prey which they can drag over 900 feet from the place of capture to feed. They often bury their kills to feed at a later time. You can see our two cougars along Jungle Trail.
  • Eland

    Southeastern Africa

    Grasslands, semiarid areas

    Least Concern

    Up to 25 years

    Up to 2000 lbs, 4 ft for males

    Grasses, herbs, leaves

    Eland are one of the largest hooved animals in the world. They are very adaptable animals with the ability to live in all environments except deserts, forests, and swamps. They are some of the slowest antelope, running only 25 miles per hour. Eland will live in herds of up to 25. There may be more than one male but only the dominant male will have access to females for breeding. Calves are born after a 9 month gestation period and hide after they are born for protection. You can see our eland on the African Plains.
  • Goats

    Originally Africa, Europe; now global

    Large variety of habitats

    Status Unknown

    10-18 years

    Up to 200 lbs, 40 in (species dependent)

    Plants, grasses

    Goats began to be domesticated for agricultural purposes more than 10,000 years ago. They are used for a variety of purposes including their milk, meat, and hair depending on the breed. Females called does often give birth to twins and can have up to 4 kids at a time. Similar to several other hooved animals, goats have a 4-chambered ruminating stomach. This works by the goat eating food, which spends time in the stomach, and then is regurgitated to be chewed again. This helps to produce very little waste and allows goats to get all of the nutrition possible out of their diet. Despite popular culture goats will not eat everything, they are actually quite picky. However goats are extremely curious and will chew on new things to help figure out what they are.

    You can see several breeds of goat including: Nigerian Dwarf, African Pygmy, Alpine, La Mancha, Toggenburg, and Nubian goats in the Zoo's Critter Encounter area.

  • Giraffe

    Scattered across Africa

    Dry savannas, open forest, grasslands

    Dependent on subspecies

    15-20 years

    Up to 1500 lbs, 19 ft

    Leaves, plants, fruits

    There are at least six different types of giraffes. You can see two here at Nashville Zoo: Layla is a reticulated giraffe; and Congo and Margarita are Masai giraffes. Giraffes are the tallest of all land mammals. Giraffes have a neck that is 6 feet long and weighs 600 pounds. Their heart is 2 feet long and weighs 25 pounds. They eat about 75 pounds of food each day which they gather with their 18 inch long tongue. Due to this massive size giraffes do not really need to hide from predators, they do need to be worried about lions, but giraffes have a powerful kick that they will use to defend themselves. You can find our giraffes on the African Savannah.
  • Meerkat

    Southern Africa

    Dry savannas/plains

    Least Concern

    Up to 15 years

    Up to 2 lbs, 24 in

    Insects, small invertebrates, eggs

    Meerkats are small mammals related to the mongoose. They live in underground burrows with up to 40 meerkats in groups called mobs. This large social group is key to the meerkats survival. You will see at least one individual on “sentry duty” looking out for predators while others will spend time grooming and playing together to maintain their tight bond. Meerkats are made for digging and can excavate huge burrow systems with many different rooms that provide protection from predators. These burrows can have 15 entrances and they stay a constant cool temperature even in the hot African sun. Be on the lookout for our meerkats near Zoo Central.
  • Red Kangaroo

    Dry areas of Australia

    Open plains

    Least Concern

    Up to 20 years

    Up to 200 lbs

    Grasses, herbs, leaves

    Red kangaroos are the largest marsupials and the largest mammals in Australia. Females use their pouch to carry a baby called a joey that is born after about 30 days. The joey will permanently leave the pouch after about 235 days. These plant eaters can go for long periods of time without drinking water by eating moisture filled succulent plants. Kangaroos in Australia can be seen in large groups called mobs. They can run 40 miles per hour, jump 30 feet long, and 10 feet high. You can see our kangaroos at Kangaroo Kickabout.
  • Red Panda

    Areas in Himalayan Mountains and mountains of southwestern China

    Temperate forests


    Up to 14 years

    Up to 16.5 lbs, 4 ft long

    Mainly bamboo, also berries, fruit, insects, young leaves, bark

    The red pandas were once thought to be relatives of raccoons and bears but research has now put them in their own animal family Ailuridae. Red pandas are solitary and they rarely interact with another red panda outside of mating season. Breeding season is in the early winter with most births being in June. Similarly to their giant panda relatives red pandas have a wrist bone that acts like a thumb to help them grip bamboo. You can see our red pandas on Bamboo Trail.

    We are a Red Panda Network partner and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • Red River Hog

    Western & Central Africa

    Forests, savannas, swamps

    Least Concern

    Up to 20 years

    Up to 250 lbs, 2-3 ft

    Roots, fruits, water plants, grasses, small mammals, eggs

    Red river hogs are very social animals who will live in groups of up to 20. Groups are usually made up of 1 adult male, several females, and their piglets. They are mostly active once the sun sets where they will use their shovel like snouts to dig up roots or bulbs to eat, though red river hogs will eat most anything they find. Female hogs will give birth to about 1-4 piglets. Male offspring are forced out of their group at about one year of age. Male red river hogs will fight by butting heads, whipping each other with their tails, and will fluff their facial hair when threatened. You can see our red river hogs on the African Savannah.
  • Red Ruffed Lemur

    Northeast Madagascar

    Tropical forests

    Critically Endangered

    15-20 years

    Up to 8-9 lbs, 47 in long

    Fruit, nectar, pollen, leaves, seeds

    Red-ruffed lemurs are 1 of more than 100 species of lemurs on the island of Madagascar. Lemurs are not monkeys but a type of primate called a prosimian. Red-ruffed lemurs will spend most of their day in the canopies of forests and they play an important role in pollination in their habitat. Red-ruffed lemurs are very vocal, with the ability to make more than 12 separate calls. These are used to warn others of predators, keep the group together while foraging, or to warn others that a space is already occupied. Listen for our red-ruffed lemurs Lyra and Larry on the Bamboo Trail.

    We financially support Sava Conservation and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • Ring-Tailed Lemur

    Southern Madagascar

    Forest, savanna, rock canyons


    Up to 20 years

    Up to 8 lbs, 18 in long

    Plants and fruit

    Ring-tailed lemurs live in southern areas of Madagascar in social groups of up to 25 members. These are mixed groups with males and females. Female ring-tailed lemurs are always dominant over males and there is one dominant female in each group. When the group travels together they will raise their long ringed tails to act as flags to locate other members of the group. They will mark their territory by rubbing their scent glands on trees. Breeding usually takes place between April-June with babies being born August-September. Females will usually have 1-2 offspring. You can see our ring-tailed lemurs along the Bamboo Trail.

    We financially support Sava Conservation and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • Short-tailed, Leaf-nosed Bat

    Mexico to South America

    Tropical, evergreen forests

    Least Concern

    Up to 10 years

    Up to 20 grams, 2.5 in

    Fruit, pollen, insects

    Bats are the only mammals with wings that can fly. Bats are very important to the ecosystems in which they live, as they help to pollinate many of the plants. When food is lacking, the short-tailed, leaf-nosed bats will enter into a state similar to hibernation called torpor. Bats will roost in one of two types groups: harems with one adult male and several adult females, or bachelor groups of sub-adult males. Mating can occur twice a year and females will give birth to one baby.

    Short-tailed leaf-nosed bats love to eat mosquitoes! You can thank them for that when you see them in the Unseen New World.

  • Siamang

    Island of Sumatra

    Hilly tropical forests


    Up to 40 years

    23-28 lbs, 35 in

    Fruit, leaves, flowers, insects

    Commonly mistaken for monkeys, siamangs are actually the largest of the lesser ape species. Like all apes, they lack tails and have the ability to move bipedially on their back legs only. Siamangs spend most of their day in trees moving through a process called brachiation meaning they move from tree to tree using only their arms. Siamangs live in a family group consisting a breeding pair and their offspring. Females will give birth every 2-3 years. Siamangs have an enlarged throat sac which can swell to the size of their head to amplify their vocalizations you can hear throughout the zoo!

    We participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • Springbok

    South Africa

    Dry, tree-less plains

    Least Concern

    Up to 15 yrs

    Up to 105 lbs, 34 in

    Leaves, roots, grasses

    Huge herds of springbok used to roam the southern African plains, but the springbok is now largely confined to reserves. One of the distinguishing features of springbok is a fold of skin that runs down its back. When the springbok is excited this flap of skin can be opened to display a crest of white hair. This skin is used in a springbok behavior called "pronking," where springbok will do several stiff-legged jumps up to 6 ft. high while showing off this white crest. This behavior could be a response to predators, to help springbok orientate themselves in their surroundings, or it could have a social role. Both the males and females have horns of up to 19 in. which can be used for defense. You can see our springbok on the African Plains.
  • Tiger

    Southern Asia

    Forests, grasslands


    15-20 years

    350-550 lbs, 6-12 ft

    Large vertebrates (elk, deer, water buffalo)

    Tigers are not as fast as other big cats so they rely on ambushing their prey. Their stripes help them to blend into tall grasses as they stalk their prey. They are successful about 1 out of every 10 attempts. Similar to human fingerprints no two tigers have exactly the same pattern of stripes. Tigers are solitary and will only meet each other for breeding. Cubs will stay with their mother for 1.5 to 3 years. The males play no part in raising the young. White tigers are not albino but are the result of a recessive gene. You can see our tigers Mylee and Sareeka along the Jungle Loop.

    We financially support the Tiger Conservation Campaign and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • White-Cheeked Gibbon

    Southeast Asia

    Canopies of subtropical rainforests

    Critically Endangered

    Up to 40 years

    Up to 20 lbs, 18-25 in

    Fruit, leaves, insects

    Gibbons are not monkeys, but are considered lesser apes due in part to their lack of a tail and ability to walk bipedally on their back legs. Gibbons move through the trees by a process called brachiation which involves swinging using only their arms. Gibbons live in a family unit of an adult male and female and their offspring. The adult female is the dominant member of the group. White-cheeked gibbons are born blonde to camouflage with their mother and then turn black as juveniles. Females finally turn back to a blonde color at sexual maturity while the males stay black. You can see our gibbons on Gibbon Island near Entry Village.

    We participate in the Species Survival Plan.

  • Yellow-Backed Duiker

    Central & West Africa

    Forests with dense undergrowth

    Least Concern

    10-12 years

    Up to 200 lbs, 2.5 ft tall

    Fruit, leaves, vegetation

    Yellow-backed duikers are the largest of all 15 species of duiker. Adult duikers have black coats with a white face. Their yellow hair appears on their back at 5-9 months and stands up when the duiker feels threatened or agitated.

    Little is known about the yellow-backed duikers’ behavior due to their shy nature and the thick forests they call home. Duikers might be solitary or live in a monogamous pair. They can breed anytime and typically have offspring twice a year. Young duikers are hidden by their mothers in underbrush for the first several weeks of their life for protection from predators. Due to their size duikers have to forage for food for much the day.

    You can see our yellow-backed duikers on Bamboo Trail.

  • Zebra

    Eastern and Southern Africa

    Open savannas, grasslands

    Least Concern

    Up to 20 years

    Up to 750 lbs, 5 ft

    Mostly grasses; some leaves, herbs, twigs

    Zebras are members of the equid family which includes horses and donkeys. They are largely grazers and eat the tops of grasses were they live. Each zebra has a different pattern of stripes on their coat. This is called disruptive camouflage. The main predator of zebra are lions who like to hunt for zebra as the sun goes down. Zebra’s stripes help them to blend into tall grasses where they live and confuse the lions. Zebra live in large herds and their stripes make it hard for lions to track a zebra to hunt for a meal when following a large herd. They also have other defenses against predators including great hearing and eyesight, a top speed of 35 miles per hour, and a kick that can seriously injure a predator. Zebra can give birth anytime during the year and will usually give birth to one foal which stays with their mother for up to 3 years. You can see our zebra on African Plains.