Nashville Zoo’s Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear received the Top Honors in Exhibit Design Award by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) at the AZA Annual Conference in New Orleans earlier this week.
The award is the highest achievement for exhibit design given by AZA and is judged by 18 seasoned zoo and aquarium professionals on exhibit design, contribution to conservation, interpretive programming and how the exhibit fits in the Zoo's long-term strategic goals.
“This is an outstanding accomplishment that not only signifies a new, elevated time for the Zoo, but also recognizes our goal to create the best possible exhibit for the species that call Nashville Zoo home,” said Rick Schwartz, Nashville Zoo President and CEO. “It’s incredible to be given top honors and we will continue creating exhibits of this caliber as we expand in the future.”
Expedition Peru, which was completed in March 2018, is a fully immersive Peruvian experience that showcases 14 different species. Two Andean bears are the stars of the exhibit, marking the first time Nashville Zoo has ever had a bear species in its collection. Expedition Peru is also home to critically-endangered cotton-top tamarins, southern pudu, guinea pigs, and a multi-species aquarium representing the biodiversity of the Amazon River Basin.
Nashville Zoo has pledged a total of $300,000 in financial support over five years to three in-situ partners – Andean Bear Conservation Alliance, Proyecto Titi and the Spectacled Bear Conservation project. The two Andean bears at Nashville Zoo also act as animal ambassadors for their species, educating guests about the many threats they face in the wild.
The Zoo reached more than 1,000,000 annual visitors in 2018 with the help of this new exhibit, as well as added another event rental space for people looking for a wild spin on a traditional event. The opening of this exhibit added another 2,226 sq. ft. of air-conditioned space for guests, as well as shortened the walk between animal exhibits to give visitors a better overall experience during their visit. The Nashville Zoo team also took special care to collaborate with the leaders of the Andean Bear Species Survival Plan® when designing the exhibit to ensure adequate den space and promote stress-free breeding and cub rearing.
Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear has also ranked within the top four exhibits in North America by USA Today’s 10Best contest and has been recognized by many media outlets as having the most elaborate women’s restroom in the country, which features a family of six cotton-top tamarins.
Nashville Zoo's education department was also awarded the Innovation in Education Award for its partnership with Croft Design Center Middle Prep, which is part of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Through this partnership, the Zoo offers collaborative learning opportunities, interdisciplinary projects in all subject areas, field trips and animal exhibits on school property.
This particular program seeks to create a long-term experience for Croft Middle students that connects them directly to the conservation work of Nashville Zoo and motivates them to be stewards of wildlife and wild places throughout their lives.