By: David Lang
Photo credits in attached article: Visit Knoxville, Zoo Knoxville
I love Tennessee! Memphis and Nashville are music capitals which have produced generations of music talents. Chattanooga was once one of the most polluted cities in the U.S., but has since cleaned up its dirt and is now graced with blue sky every day. The Rock City & Ruby Fall there is a must visit site. Knoxville is a college town and is near The Great Smokies. I am especially attracted by the collection of rare animal species from Asia in Zoo Knoxville.
After a nice sleep at the luxurious Tennessean Hotel and fresh coffee and croissant at the French Market, I headed to the zoo directly. First opened in 1948 with only a few animals, Zoo Knoxville has developed in the past 70 years into a good size facility with a respectable collection of animals. It is especially renowned for its rare Asian mammals. It was the only zoo in the U.S. when I visited had both the critically endangered Malayan and Sumatran tigers. According to a 2013 survey there were only 250-341 Malayan tigers in the wild and 54 in zoos all over the world, and Knoxville has three, two male and one female. A new Tiger Forest was just completed and the three big cats can now enjoy a nice surrounding with lush vegetation instead of inside a cage. Similarly, the Sumatran Tiger is also critically endangered with no more than 400 in the wild. Its cousins both the Bali and Javan tigers have already become extinct.
The breeding of Red Panda is a successful story that the zoo can be most proud of! I retold the story of how Silvia, the Red Panda Queen, came to Knoxville from Bhutan via Spain, and with other females have successfully given birth to over 90 Red Panda babies throughout the years. This remarkable record has crowned Zoo Knoxville as the Red Panda breeding capital of the world!
Other rare Asian mammals also include the White-handed Gibbon and the Silvery leaf Langur. There is a Chinese pagoda inside the entrance of the zoo that was donated by the Tse family in Knoxville. They are immigrants from Taiwan. Knoxville has sister city relationship with both Chengdu, China and Kaoshiung, Taiwan.
I then talked briefly about the Sun Sphere (and the Expo which the City hosted in 1982); the Blue Plate Special at WDVX-FM; and the walking tour guide provided by Kox Heritage. Then the last couple of paragraphs focus on Oak Ridge, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and the American Museum of Science & Energy. After all these walking, a meal at Calhoun’s with its famous BBQ ribs made everyone very happy!