The Hogle Zoo's new Conservation Carousel has 42 animals for riders to choose from, but the decision was easy for Haley Hopper. Her favorite animal is the cheetah.
After Haley, a second-grader at Southland Elementary, learned that her favorite animal was in danger of becoming extinct her face became glum. "That's sad it is endangered, 'cause I don't want them gone," she said. As the carousel began again, Hopper's concerns dissipated as she talked with her friend Brooke Hathaway, also a second-grader at Southland, about how cute the carved wooden animals adorning the ride were.
In an attempt to raise awareness, the Hogle Zoo created the Conservation Carousel as a tool to educate riders about animal species that are threatened or facing extinction. The carousel also sets an example of conservation because of its power source — solar panels provided by Rocky Mountain Power that generate enough electricity to run the ride, making it emission-free.
"A large part of our mission here at the zoo is education and conservation," said Holly Braithwaite, Hogle Zoo spokeswoman. "The carousel brings those two things together. It's education through fun for kids."
The zoo hopes that by educating children about the situations affecting animal populations early, that knowledge will stick with them and maybe they'll pass the information along to their parents, too, Braithwaite said.
Funds raised through the carousel will support ongoing conservation projects the zoo is involved with, such as the Save the Elephant Fund, the International Snow Leopard Trust and the Year of the Frog project. The latter is raising awareness about dangers facing Utah's native amphibian populations.
Launa Christiansen, director of The Little Learners Academy in West Jordan, which sponsored the carousel's giraffe, said the organization helped support the zoo's new attraction because it raises awareness and educates visitors about the importance of protecting animals around the world.
"Growing up as a little girl I loved giraffes. They're majestic and they take me back to being a little girl," Christiansen said. "I love how the Hogle Zoo isn't just about housing animals, but protecting them, and that is important as the world changes and more animals are being threatened."
Christiansen said she sees the carousel as a tool to educate children about the importance of protecting endangered species. She said if parents teach their children to protect animals, threatened species will have a chance.