Hidden away in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris is the Carousel of Extinct and Endangered Animals, also called Le Dodo Manège. It’s a kid’s ride with an interesting theme that features a collection of extinct or endangered animals. Fancy jumping into the back of a glyptodon, dodo or thylacine for a ride? This is your chance!
The carousel is a companion to the National Museum of Natural History (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle), which is located nearby in the park. Despite its retro 1930’s inspired look, it was installed in 1992 by a scientist from the museum who wanted to spread an ecological message to children.
You can pay to ride the carousel, and choose which extinct animal you want to ride as you experience the classic merry-go-round music.
The animals of the Dodo Manège
The animals on the Dodo Manège are all extinct, from natural events or caused by humans, as well as a few endangered species that are still around today. Let’s take a look!
The dodo may be one of the most well-known example of an extinct animal caused by humans. The 1 metre tall flightless birds lived on Mauritius, and was last seen in 1662. They were hunted to extinction by European sailors, and now are seen as the quintessential tragic symbol for extinction.
The triceratops was a dinosaur which lived during the late Cretaceous period, and one of the world’s most recognisable dinosaurs. They are well-known or their three facial horns, and bony crest.
Meiolania (Horned turtle)
The Meiolania was a giant armoured relative of the turtle, which lived in Australia. There are several known species, which were thought to have become extinct about 50,000 years ago due to climate change. However, fossils dating back to 2800 to 3000 years ago suggest they may have been around relatively recently.
Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger)
One of the most recently extinct species on the carousel is the thylacine which lived in Tasmania, parts of the Australian mainland, and New Guinea. Human settlement, hunting, dogs and disease all contributed to its extinction in 1933. Heartbreaking video exists of one of the last known thylacines in captivity, pacing restlessly in its enclosure.
The size of a Volkswagen Beetle, the glyptodon was a mammal with a huge armoured shell. It was a relative of the armadillo, and lived in North and South America. The glyptodon went extinct around 11,700 years ago during a mass Pleistocene fauna extinction event.
Aepyornis (Elephant Bird)
Native to Madagascar, the aepyornis was a large flightless bird similar to an ostrich, standing up to 3 metres tall. It laid huge eggs, with circumferences of over 1 metre. The species went extinct around 1000CE, possibly due to hunting and the poaching of their eggs.
The giant sivatherium is an extinct relative of the modern day giraffe. Indeed, what was once a very diverse family of mammals (the giraffids) now counts only the giraffe and okapi as the last remaining examples. The sivatherium was a massive animal, with antlers resembling a moose or deer. It went extinct towards the end of the Pleistocene era.
The Barbary lion was a species of lion that lived in North Africa. They featured prominently in art and literature of ancient Egypt. They were wiped out largely by bounties imposed on the shooting of the lions, with the last recorded example in Algeria in 1956, and reported sightings in the early 60’s. A taxidermied example can be found in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.
The giant panda is still around, although its status is vulnerable. Human infrastructure continues to threaten panda habitats, and it’s estimated that there are less than 2000 left in the wild.
Gorillas are considered critically endangered. Gorillas live throughout Africa. While the western lowland gorilla is the most numerous, with over 100,000 individuals living in the wild, other gorilla species such as the cross river gorillas and mountain gorillas have tiny populations, estimated to be around 250 and 880 respectively.
The largest mammals on earth are also in danger. African elephants are listed as vulnerable, and Asian elephants as endangered. Destruction of their large habitats and poaching are significant problems which elephants still face today, and require our support to survive.
Next time you’re in the Jardin des Plantes, make sure you check out the whimsical Dodo Manège! And while you listen to the music and do the rounds on an endangered animal, take a moment to consider the environmental message of the carousel.