Visitors this weekend will be amongst the first to experience the Nashville Zoo’s newest exhibit, a three-acre enclosed habitat containing several Native Nashvillians. Native Nashvillians, once plentiful in Davidson Country, have begun to be regarded as an endangered species in recent decades, with those on display at the Zoo being among some of the few remaining that could be found.
“I’ve lived here for five years and never actually spotted a Native Nashvillian before” enthused Blake Parker, an artist from Oregon who relocated here for a change of scenery and marketplace. “I’d love to see one up close; I hear they’re really friendly, unless you’re on the Interstate.” Sarah Friedkin, a banker from Ohio who moved to Davidson County in 2003, is also thrilled about the new exhibit. “I’ve only ever seen two in the wild before, so I’m of course excited, but even better is that this should be a great learning experience for my kids. They’ve never heard someone correctly pronounce ‘Tusculum’ or ‘the superlative florist’ before, or listened to long-winded memories about when Hickory Hollow was cool and East Nashville was dangerous. This’ll open up a whole new world to them!”
As people from other geographic areas continue a rapid, mass-migration to Nashville that has been occurring in recent years, anthropologists and pundits have noticed a stark dwindling of people born in Music City who willingly remain in the area into adulthood. Wilma Stratton, an administrator at the Nashville Zoo, told reporters that they hope the new exhibit can be the beginning of efforts to redevelop the population of Native Nashvillians. “By providing a familiar and protected environment, we hope that there will be a gradual resurgence in the number of Native Nashvillians. So much of the species has fled to other areas in an effort to avoid dangerous and frightening habitat changes like overpriced cocktails, rising property taxes, and John Rich. We believe that, in time, this exhibit will not only be a star attraction for the Zoo, but also ensure that you don’t have to drive to Murfreesboro or Hendersonville to see a real Nashvillian.”
Randy Parker, who oversaw construction of the new exhibit, says he’s quite proud of the care that went into designing the Nashvillians’ habitat. “It was wonderful having so much space to work with, but it was still a real puzzle trying to fit in all the necessary elements that would put a Native Nashvillian at ease. There’s all the usual habitat stuff you’d expect, like a small pond for bathing, lots of trees and rocks for lounging in the sun, et cetera. But there’s also a replica Bar-B-Cutie off to one side so they have somewhere familiar to eat, and we put in a reading nook with a Davis-Kidd sign over it to help them feel more at home. Also, we made sure that there were no visible signs of reliable public transportation visible from within the enclosure, just to avoid confusing the inhabitants.”
Stratton also noted that the expansiveness of the exhibit has already attracted unwanted attention from outside parties. “With that much untouched space within the enclosure, we’ve naturally been approached by several real estate developers. They all want to build luxury hotels and condos in the south-side of the exhibit, but we stand firm in our intention to only build strip clubs and Christian book publishing companies there, side by side, just like someone who grew up in Nashville would expect.”
Photo of habitat found at http://www.zoochat.com/22/review-houston-zoo-145665/. Other photography submitted by Rhinestone photographer Greg Youszeck.