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Nashville Zoo's Bartoo shares facts with MJ Chamber

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Jim Bartoo, with The Nashville Zoo, spoke on Wednesday to Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce members during their monthly luncheon, held at Rutland Place.

Bartoo discussed how The Nashville Zoo has grown in almost two decades, and told members what they can expect to see on their next trip to the zoo with their families.

The Nashville Zoo is currently located on 188 acres which it purchased in 1997 with the mission of getting people to engaged in the great outdoors.

"We started with a playground," said Bartoo. "We wanted families to come to the zoo and spend a lot of time together as a family."

The 66,000-square-foot community playground was the zoo's first big project. "A lot of folks buy memberships just to have their kids come out and play on this playground. It is massive," said Bartoo, adding that it has been featured as one of the top playgrounds in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine - which has a readership of 1.2 million.

In 1998 Barton said they also unveiled the "unseen world" exhibit, with a focus on reptiles.

By popular demand, they next added a petting zoo. "We kept hearing people say how they wanted to touch and engaged with the animals," Bartoo said.

The Zoo tries to recreate the animals' natural habitats, not only to benefit these animals, but so that guests are "magically transformed into another land."

"In 2003, we expanded by opening Bamboo Trail," Bartoo said, noting that one of their most popular and unique animals is the Clouded Leopard. The Nashville Zoo has bred 23 of these rare animals since its beginning - more than any other place in the world.

"In 2005 we opened up Lorikeet Landing," he continued. "You can buy cups of nectar and they will land in your hair. If you don't like birds, you don't need to go there - because they will like you."

The Zoo's last big exhibit opened in 2013 and allows guests to interact with kangaroos. Bartoo said the kangaroos can go wherever they want in the exhibit - which includes frequently taking naps on the sidewalk and letting guests pet them.

"They are amazing creatures. They started getting familiar with each other the moment we put them in the exhibit. Within nine months we had baby kangaroos (joeys) everywhere," he said.

Bartoo explained that the gestation period for kangaroos is much shorter than for human moms. "When they are born they look like little, hairless jellybeans. They crawl up their mom's stomach and into the pouch where they stay for several months. We have a couple joeys there now."

Bartoo concluded that most exhibits at The Nashville Zoo are "amazing to see."

The Nashville Zoo hosts many events throughout the year, including a "Boo At the Zoo" trick-or-treating event coming up this October.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at

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