The Zoo's newest exhibit features 58 different species, all coexisting peacefully under a brightly colored, open-air pavilion. This gorgeous, custom-carved carousel features animals on exhibit at the Zoo and also some species which are the focus of Zoo scientists’ research to save them from extinction. The carousel includes beloved endangered species including giant pandas, Komodo dragons, and cheetahs, the attraction will welcome visitors of all ages to Lion/Tiger Hill with delightful animal figures and colorful scenery.
The memories created and the messages learned will work in tandem to transform how our visitors—and ultimately the entire community—understand the complex challenges of conserving endangered species.
The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel opened for the first time for ZooLights beginning in November 2012. It runs daily and throughout ZooLights. Rides cost $3 and tickets can be purchased at the carousel and in National Zoo gift shops.
The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel is one of only a few solar-powered carousels in the world. The solar panels and installation were donated by Pepco Energy Services. As a part of the exhibit, an interactive kiosk will allow visitors to follow how much solar energy the solar panels generate. The District Department of the Environment provided support to create a rain garden at the carousel site to prevent storm runoff, adding to the educational and sustainable components of the project.
The Speedwell Conservation Carousel was custom-built by Carousel Works, the world’s largest manufacturer of wooden carousels. The dedicated craftspeople constructed a 42-foot diameter carousel that pays homage to classic carousels of the golden age, while putting a modern "spin" on the attraction. The carousel's 56 custom-carved animals and two handicap-accessible chariots are divided into four habitats—aquatic, forest, grassland, and desert. Some are of particular interest locally, like the Baltimore oriole, while some are universal symbols of conservation like the giant panda. The top of the carousel features scenery panels of birds in flight from each of the four habitats. Information about each of the species is printed around the columns sharing a story or fact about the carved figures: species such as the Asian elephant that can be found at the Zoo’s Elephant Trails exhibit, or the scimitar-horned oryx which is part of the Species Survival Plan breeding program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Each figure tells a compelling story.