There’s a new spot at the National Zoo where you can see 58 animals — including a panda, a tiger, a Komodo dragon and a kangaroo — peacefully existing inches away from one another. Okay, they’re not real animals. They are the brightly painted creatures on the zoo’s new Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel, which opened last week near the entrance to Great Cats Circle.
This is an unusual carousel for two reasons. The first is the types of animals on the ride. You’ve seen horses, tigers and zebras on other carousels. This one includes a grasshopper, a naked mole-rat and an armadillo. Some of the animals represent endangered species and species that were once endangered and are being bred at places including the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Others are animals you might see in your back yard. (So you can tell your friends that you’ve ridden a yellow jacket or a blue crab.)
The other unusual feature is what makes the carousel turn: the sun. Solar panels, which are tricky to spot on the carousel’s roof, convert sunlight into energy that powers the ride. The zoo’s carousel is one of the few in the world to use solar power.
So the Conservation Carousel is about conserving two things: animals and energy. The ride is also a nice way to regain your energy after walking the many paths to visit the zoo’s real animals.
The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel is open during regular zoo hours and evenings during ZooLights. Tickets are $3.