Just in time for this year’s International Migratory Bird Day celebration, May 12 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a new, permanent exhibit that tells an amazing story about a migratory bird – the endangered whooping crane – has been installed at Conservation Station. During the event, guests will have the chance to see the new exhibit, which includes an ultralight aircraft used to lead whooping cranes on their migration and talk with representatives from Operation Migration, which has played a leading role in this bird’s conservation.
Each year, a new group of hand-reared whooping cranes makes its first migration south from Wisconsin to Florida. The rare birds are led by ultralight aircraft flown by the pilots of the Operation Migration team. Threats such as habitat loss and unregulated hunting brought the whooping crane population to an alarming low of only 15 birds in the early 1940s. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported this program since its inception in 2000 to help grow the migratory population of these cranes and to develop and refine this innovative model, which might help other species.
Scott Tidmus, one of our zoological managers, explains how our animal care team supports Operation Migration and the whooping cranes: “Disney’s Animal Kingdom animal keepers assist with the hand-rearing of chicks, and team members monitor the cranes during their initial arrival in Florida. Our veterinary team performs health exams on the chicks before they are released to start their acclimation to the wild following their migration.”
Other highlights of our International Migratory Bird Day celebration, where guests can be “honorary birds” for the day:
- Main Entrance (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.): Guests receive their bird band and a bookmark with the locations of the other “banding” stations in the park
- Oasis (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.) What is your feather color?: Guests can have their plumage (clothing) recorded.
- Tree of Life (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What is your leg length?: Guests will have their leg length measured and recorded.
- Asia (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What is your wing span?: Guests will have their arm length measured and recorded.
- Africa (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What is your height?: Children will have their height measured and recorded.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Operation Migration exhibit and a variety of other special activities
Upcoming 2012 wildlife conservation events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (as always, dates subject to change):
- May 23: World Turtle Day
- June 6: Pollinator Day
- August: Cotton-Top Tamarin Month
- Sept. 5: International Vulture Awareness Day
- Sept. 26: Elephant Awareness Day
- Oct. 31: Bat Day