HCA Healthcare
March 08, 2019

SOURCE: Nashville Tennessean

AUTHOR: Andy Humbles

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere's popular two-toed sloth named Fern got a health checkup Friday for a crowd of visitors to see.

The zoo opened a new outdoor public viewing area that allows up to 200 visitors to watch different aspects of animal care as part of a new state-of-the-art veterinary center.

Fern’s exam was considered routine, but all types of procedures up to major surgeries will be available for visitors to watch from the public viewing area. An Andean bear is scheduled for a root canal at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

"This zoo clearly really does care about these animals and making sure they are healthy and safe,” said 17-year-old Bobby Mitchell who was part of the crowd who watched a sedated Fern get worked on. “I watch a lot of vet shows on Animal Planet, so this is fun to watch.”

The 23,677-square-foot veterinary center replaces a 30-year-old facility that was around 2,500 square-feet that was antiquated and designed for a much smaller wildlife park, Nashville Zoo Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Heather Robertson said.

The veterinary team has worked since December at the center, which Nashville Zoo President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Schwartz believes can arguably be considered the best in the country.

The public viewing area is “the most exciting part," Robertson said, with multiple rooms for surgeries, treatments, bird brooding and neonatal care.

The viewing area also has video monitors that allow people to watch on a television screen outside and staff who answer questions and explain procedures.

“By opening up that window they are now able to see what we’ve been doing every day," Robertson said. "And also, I want to inspire younger kids to get into conservation, to do veterinary care and to see how many jobs and careers they can get into.”

Animals up to 2,000 pounds can be brought into the veterinary center. Veterinarian staff will still have to go out to the largest animals such as elephants, rhinoceros' and giraffes, Robertson said.