Take a spin on the Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel, a one-of-a-kind experience guaranteed to delight. Where else can you ride a naked mole rat, panda or armadillo? Situated across from the Zoo’s Lemur Island, the carousel features dozens of custom-carved and hand-painted animals under a brightly colored, open-air pavilion.
The Speedwell Foundation 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 dozens of custom-carved animals and two handicap-accessible chariots are divided into four habitats—aquatic, forest, grassland, and desert. Many of the animals represent endangered species that Smithsonian scientists and animal care experts have spent years studying, while some of the species depicted can be seen around the Zoo, such as giant pandas, komodo dragons and cheetahs.
The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel runs on the sun and is one of the few solar-powered carousels in the world! An interactive, digital dashboard at the carousel’s entrance allows visitors to track how the carousel generates and uses solar energy in real time. 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.