The (weird) hidden exhibit you don’t want to miss at the Nashville Zoo

One of the best-kept secrets at the Nashville Zoo is hidden in plain sight!

I’m a frequent visitor to the Nashville Zoo, and when the opening day came for its newest exhibit, “Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear”, I made sure I was there! I gave the attendant at the entry gate my membership card and commented I was excited to see the new exhibit. “Enjoy!” she said brightly, and then added, “oh, and be sure to visit the ladies’ room while you’re there”. 

I didn’t give her comment much more thought as I strolled through the zoo, but after I had seen everything in the new exhibit I decided to take her up on the suggestion. I found the ladies’ room tucked into a corner outside the Peruvian lodge. Then I pushed the door open and came face to face with a couple of primates! 

Cotton-top tamarins, to be precise. Their exhibit is hidden inside the ladies’ room! There is no signage outside the door to let you know you are going to see an exhibit inside, so walking in to see a tamarin looking back at you is a big surprise! 

Before they came to Nashville Zoo, I had never heard of tamarins. Small primates from South America, Cotton-top tamarins are easily recognizable because of the tufts of white fur around their faces. They are listed as critically endangered, so the zoo’s (already successful) breeding initiative is a great step towards conservation. 

Of course, this exhibit isn’t one you forget, so it is only a surprise once. That doesn’t make it any less fun on return visits. The tamarins are more curious and less cautious than they were when the exhibit first opened, so they will come right up to the glass to peer out at visitors. Plus, there are always people who have never seen the exhibit coming into the ladies’ room for the first time, and seeing their reaction makes for very good people-watching! 

While having so much happening in the ladies’ room makes actually using the restroom a bit of an odd experience, the exhibit is creative and different. Plus, the placement and size of the exhibit definitely let you get up close and personal with the little guys.

And speaking of guys, you should know there is no other way to see the exhibit except inside the ladies’ room. But men shouldn’t feel too deprived: there is another hidden exhibit inside the men’s room near the zoo’s entry.

Overall, “Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear”, is a great new asset to the zoo. In addition to the hidden tamarins, this Peruvian Village-themed section of the zoo is home to pudu (the world’s smallest deer), an outdoor community of furry guinea pigs, fresh-water stingrays, and Andean Bears. While the playful bears are the main attraction of the Expedition Peru exhibit, I am so glad the attendant told me to pay a visit to the ladies’ room while I was there. It’s like being in on a secret. If you are planning a visit to the zoo, be sure you don’t miss it!

(image source: GeckoGroup)

Have you seen the tamarins at the zoo?