The Los Angeles Zoo’s newest attraction is jam-packed with animals saddled up and ready to ride. It’s a carousel. Zoo officials hope the new Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel will offer visitors more than just a pleasant spin.
A short walk past the flamingo habitat, a small, lively crowd gathered for the carousel’s unveiling. Greater L.A. Zoo Association president Connie Morgan emphasized that the brand new ride behind her would offer a fun diversion and important lesson.
"We wanted to do something that really would provide a lasting family memory for generations of Angelenos, and we also wanted to do something that would have a conservation message in it," said Morgan.
Children and adults may ride aboard exotic animals - cheetahs, clown fish and even a dung beetle. Designers in Ohio crafted the carousel specifically for the zoo. Much of its $2.5 million price tag was paid by board members Ann and Jerry Moss. The duo added their own touch in the carousel’s design; visitors can ride replicas of the their prize-winning horses as the loudspeaker plays pop classics from A & M records – the label Jerry Moss founded in 1962 with Herb Alpert.
But one person who won't be able to ride the newest attraction is Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz headed the Zoo Association board until he died of cancer last year. Jerry Moss, Mankiewicz's dear friend, made sure not to forget the carousel’s namesake.
"Tom would be so happy to have seen this completed. He was a great guy and we’re thrilled to have done anything to have continued his place in this wonderful zoo," said Moss.
After the Thursday ribbon-cutting, 65 fourth graders rushed the carousel, ready to ride their favorite animals. An 8-year-old Sunny Sands Elementary student Debra and her classmates rode two hours from Cathedral City so they could be the first kids on board. She sat atop a big horn sheep and was eager to go again after her first ride.
"I would pick the snake on a log, because I like snakes," she said.
As the carousel wound down, so did the commotion: kids lined up to board their bus back to Cathedral City, the camera crews packed up to head home.
Rides cost $3 a ticket and wil support the zoo's mission of conservation and education.