NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Friday marked a big milestone for the Nashville Zoo.
The zoo’s new state-of-the-art veterinary clinic opened its doors for the first time.
Fern, the two-toed sloth, was the first of the zoo’s patients to test out the facility with a physical exam.
“What better way to start than with a sloth, seems to be what everybody loves,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Director of Veterinary Services.
Dr. Robertson and her team started with anesthesia.
“We were able to get blood, x-rays, urine, all the things to make sure she’s healthy,” said Dr. Robertson.
Zoo president and CEO Rick Schwartz said the new facility is crucial to the growth in the zoo’s population.
“We needed adequate space, a really good facility to accommodate the health of the animals,” said Schwartz. “So our veterinarian team really embarked in designing what we feel is best hospital in the country.”
The new center replaces a much smaller, 30-year-old facility, with a 23,000 square foot space.
“The only thing we can’t bring in this facility are elephants, giraffes, and rhinos,” said Schwartz.
Staff have access to new equipment, an OR, an ICU, an on-site lab, even treatment rooms where visitors can watch procedures, like Fern’s, from an observation deck.
“This was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Emily Smith, a zoo visitor.
Smith and her husband aren’t zoo regulars, but they were glued to Fern’s exam from start to finish.
“You see the animals, it’s amazing, it’s majestic, it’s dreamy,” said Smith. “But then when you see the behind the scenes part of it, you go ‘Wow, these animals are being taken care of.'”
It’s a unique perspective zoo staffers said they hope will educate the public and help them care for the 2,000 animals and counting that call the zoo home.
“We built this hospital for the years to come and not just for the present,” said Dr. Robertson.
Zoo staffers said Fern left her physical with a clean bill of help.
Learn more about the Nashville Zoo’s New HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center: https://www.nashvillezoo.org/veterinary-center