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Party for the Planet – including Africa’s Big Cats – on Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 13th, 2011 by Kathy Lehnhardt, Curator of Education, Disney’s Animal Programs


Where were you on the first Earth Day? It sprouted as a grassroots event on college campuses and in local communities on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated.

I remember the 70s. I sported John Lennon glasses, wore my hair long, straight and parted down the middle with frayed bell bottom jeans (of course) and listened to Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull and Joni Mitchell. Far out! But what I remember most about the 70s was my first safari trip to Africa. There I saw my first wild elephants, lions and cheetahs. This African experience inspired me to follow a career in conservation education and continue an affinity for the natural world.

A Lion at Disney's Animal Kingdom

African wildlife experiences inspire many people who are transformed by the beauty and close proximity to wild animals. How fitting then that this year’s Earth Day event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom integrates the new Disneynature film “African Cats” into our annual theme: Celebrate Earth Day with a Party for the Planet. Disney’s great storytellers reveal the real-life saga of a cheetah and lion family living on the African savanna. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we will bring this story to life by creating fun activities that feature lions, cheetahs and how researchers study them.

Inside Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, “Be a Big Cat Researcher” activities will focus on how scientists study big cats in the wild. Guests will:

  • Record lion and cheetah behaviors on an ethogram (if you don’t know what an ethogram is, come and find out!).
  • Help find solutions to conservation issues that affect lions and cheetahs.
  • Learn about GPS collars, camera traps and who shares the savanna with lions and cheetahs.
  • Hear cheetah and lion vocalizations as they communicate to other cats across the savanna.
  • Discover where the few remaining lions and cheetahs are found on the continent of Africa.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund will showcase lion and cheetah projects that the fund supports in several African countries, and Animal Programs cast will share the many wildlife conservation projects that they are involved in throughout the world.

How do children learn to love lions, cheetahs and the rest of the natural world? By spending time outdoors. What are some great activities that get children outdoors enjoying nature? Visit our Earth Day activity station, Connecting Kids to Nature, to try gardening, camping, birding, tracking footprints and exploring the invertebrate world right in your backyard!

Party for the Planet at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Earth Day reminds us that we all share the same planet and protecting it is every person’s responsibility. With only 20,000 lions and 12,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild, they need our help. See the film “African Cats” in the first week and The Walt Disney Company will give $0.20 per ticket to the African Wildlife Foundation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect big cats and the savanna. To find out more about Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Happy Earth Day!



Take a look back at other ways we’ve celebrated Earth Day at Disney Parks:

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