Zoo’s Schwartz emerges as major industry player

'We are just in our infancy'

Prior to moving here in the early 1990s, Rick Schwartz operated four businesses in North Carolina, including endangered exotic animal species breeding facility.

Since then, the unassuming Nashville Zoo executive director has established himself as a major player within the nation’s zoo and aquarium industry. For example, Schwartz’s efforts overseeing his team’s breeding of clouded leopards and giant anteaters have garnered significant attention.

“We maintain the most genetically valuable animals for both clouded leopards and giant anteaters in North America,” he says. “For the last two years, we have produced more clouded leopards than all the world’s zoos combined.”

Similarly, Schwartz says the zoo five breeding female giant anteaters all gave birth to healthy babies last year.

“Our keeper and veterinary staff’s dedication and skill are truly amazing,” he says.

In addition, Schwartz says, zoo staff members conduct non-invasive research so that they can learn more about the two species and share that knowledge with other institutions to “ensure genetically sustainable populations.”

Last year saw about 776,000 people visit the exotic animal park, with the zoo’s 2013 highlights including the opening of a kangaroo exhibit.

“Our zoo is the ninth-largest in the country by land mass, which provides us with enormous potential,” Schwartz says. “I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished but feel that we are just in our infancy. There are very exciting plans to design and construct some of the highest quality  immersion exhibits in the country for some of the most endangered and charismatic species.”