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Join the ‘Party for the Planet’ Starting on Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 20th, 2015 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


Over the next few weeks, a visit to Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch should be a must-do on your itinerary.

After arriving in the land of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, hop aboard the Wildlife Express Train to make your way to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Moments after disembarking from the train, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about exciting conservation efforts taking place around the world – some led by nonprofit organizations supported by the Disney Conservation Fund, and others supported by our own Disney’s Animal Programs researchers and educators.

Disney Parks Blog Exclusive: The fund recently opened a new gallery to showcase conservation programs implementing unique conservation solutions to address urgent threats facing today’s wildlife. If you’ve contributed to the Disney Conservation Fund, this is a great place to learn more about projects you have helped support, as well as ways our Disney cast members are leading conservation efforts around the world. On behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide – thank you!

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On Wednesday, April 22, exclusive Earth Day activities will be offered during our “Party for the Planet” Earth Day celebration. You can participate in interactive activities, explore limited time merchandise offerings, and interact with animal and education experts from Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment and the Disney Conservation Fund team about conservation projects currently in progress.

This year’s “Party for the Planet” celebration includes two exclusive “research stations” at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Main Entrance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These research stations allow you to see behind-the-scenes footage from the newest Disneynature film, “Monkey Kingdom,” while exploring how technology is used to enhance conservation efforts. You will have the opportunity to get an up-close, hands-on look at the technology scientists use to learn about animals, as well as the valuable data that comes from special equipment called camera traps. Many of the tools showcased at these research stations were used throughout production of the newest Disneynature film, “Monkey Kingdom.” This limited time offering is in partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Conservation International.

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Thankfully, the “party” doesn’t stop after Earth Day. One of the best things about “Monkey Kingdom” is that for every ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2015), Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats! The Disneynature “Monkey Kingdom” research station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch will be open April 22 – May 20.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch has been one the best kept secrets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom … but hopefully not for long – we hope to see you soon!

Want to bring the fun of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disneynature “Monkey Kingdom” home? Download this free family activity packet for more information and fun activities for all ages.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrate Animals and Nature throughout the Year at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot

posted on February 25th, 2015 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


In addition to celebrating with us as at our Spring Forward event, don’t forget to mark your calendars for more fun wildlife and nature inspired events heading your way!

Earth Day/Party for the Planet: April 22
Back by popular demand – it’s a “Party for the Planet” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends where we will be hosting an Earth Day celebration. Discover how you can help animals by creating wildlife-friendly spaces in your backyard. Explore ways to protect and care for marine life through engaging activities. Learn more about sustainable living and how to make great choices every day to benefit both your family and our planet! Join us and don’t forget to grab your exclusive Earth Day 2015 merchandise.
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International Migratory Bird Day: May 9
Spring is all about the birds as we celebrate our winged friends on International Migratory Bird Day. Become an “honorary bird” and discover how you measure up in size and color to nearly 350 species of wild birds while also learning about the great care we provide for our birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Discover what the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is doing to ensure our skies stay filled with the many colored feathers of these amazing animals. From what they eat, to where they fly, you’ll learn all you care to know about birds—and that’s nothing to squawk at!

World Turtle Day: May 21
While visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in turtle life as you try on a replica turtle shell or get up-close with some of our turtles and tortoises including seeing our veterinarians in action with these unique animals. At The Seas with Nemo & Friends, discover how to help turtles overcome threats they face in the wild while taking part in hands-on activities that let you experience life as a turtle–all while turtles swim gracefully in the background throughout our 5.7-million-gallon aquatic habitat!
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Tour de Turtles: August 1
Hundreds of sea turtles lay their nests on the beaches of Florida every year and on this special day we invite you to join us at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort for the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles” event. Two turtles who have made their nests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will be equipped with satellite transmitters which allow sea turtle fans to follow the marathon migration of these turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. The turtles had been fitted with satellite transmitters to help with conservation efforts as they swim to raise awareness about the threats that sea turtles face. Join us for the race to the ocean where you can participate in beachside activities while learning ways you can help sea turtles!
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Keep an eye out for these events and more! Here are a few more dates to look forward to:

  • World Oceans Day: June 3
  • Pollinator Day: June 11
  • Big Cat Day: July 30
  • Primate Day: August 20
  • Elephant and Rhino Day: September 24
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Wildlife Wednesday: Get Outside This Weekend by Participating in the Great American Backyard Campout

posted on June 25th, 2014 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


Summer is a perfect time to get outside and spend time exploring nature with friends and family. Whether you are here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom getting close to hippos on the Wild Africa Trek, discovering the Alaskan wilderness with Disney Cruise Line or spending time in your own local park, you are part of making the outdoors the new “in” place to be! Even Disney Channel star Olivia Holt is on board and spreading the word!

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At Disney we are committed to connecting families and kids with nature through both Disney experiences, as well as support for other nature-related resources. If you are looking for a fun way to get outside this weekend, you can join thousands of families across the country by taking the pledge to be part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout on June 28. In your own (or a neighbor’s) backyard, local park or campground, spend the evening together looking at the stars, telling campsite stories or making animal shadows in your tent with a flashlight. The Great American Backyard Campout site features great information to help get you started, from camping tips to things you may need on your camping trip. Make sure to check out the fun ideas for camping games and activities as well as tasty meal ideas and recipes to make the evening even better. And remember, your night under the stars can make a real difference for wildlife.

Wildlife Wednesday: Get Outside This Weekend by Participating in the Great American Backyard Campout Wildlife Wednesday: Get Outside This Weekend by Participating in the Great American Backyard Campout

Not only is it fun to spend time together outdoors, there are studies that show time in nature can help improve academic performance, promote imagination and creativity and even lead to better health and well-being! On top of that, you are helping inspire the next generation to care about the planet, leading to positive actions for nature as adults.

So check it out, get outside and have a wild time!

Want to learn more about how you can connect with nature and help people, communities and the planet? Spread the word by sharing this blog post with your friends and family. Learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts both locally and around the world at WDWnews.com/about/environment/ and Disney.com/conservation. Experience more of our conservation work by participating in our guest offerings, such as Wild Africa Trek and Backstage Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Fun Abounds When Kids, Disney Parks Cast Members and Animals Connect During Hospital Visits

posted on June 26th, 2013 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


It’s fantastic being a Disney cast member, and no days are better than when a group of us get to take some of the animals from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to visit with the kids at three local Florida hospitals (the third was just added this year).

Fun Abounds When Kids, Cast Members and Animals Connect During Hospital Visits

Each month, with the support of Walt Disney World Resort Community Relations, Disney’s Animal Programs and Entertainment cast members partner to bring some wonderful programs to kids, ranging from toddlers to teenagers. The programs include educational presentations, interactive activities, animal encounters and special appearances by Disney characters. And for kids who are unable to leave their rooms to attend a program, we make individual room visits to bring the fun to the kids.

The kids really get into trying to figure out which animal is the fastest, strongest, largest, etc., during our “Awesome Animals” program. And they are amazed at what animals can be found right in their own backyards during our “Backyard Buddies” program. Another favorite is the “Caring for Animals” program – there are nods of understanding all around when kids learn that our animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom undergo many of the same procedures when they are cared for by our veterinary team as the kids do when they receive care from the hospital medical team.

Fun Abounds When Kids, Cast Members and Animals Connect During Hospital Visits

During these visits, it’s hard to say who has the better time, us or the kids!

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Central Florida Kids Experience Natural ‘Magic’ During Special Spring Camp at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 27th, 2013 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


It’s a beautiful spring break week here in Central Florida, providing the perfect setting to get outdoors and explore the natural “magic” found right here in our own backyard at the Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to millions of guests, a few special neighbors from the Rosemont Community Center in Orlando, Florida, are enjoying every minute of it. Walt Disney World Community Relations has teamed up with Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members for the second year in a row to offer a special spring conservation day camp to 40 Central Florida children as a way to inspire them to apply their creative talents to make positive contributions within their community that benefit nature and the environment.
Central Florida Kids Experience Natural 'Magic' During Special Spring Camp at Walt Disney World Resort

The children, ages 6 to 12 years old, arrived Monday at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on day one of camp. They were ready to explore and connect with nature, including all of the amazing animals soon to be experienced throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as those featured during treks to The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot and to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. By traveling “around the world” right here at the Walt Disney World Resort, campers are exploring many unique habitats while coming face to face with some of the diverse animals that live there. From the pride lands of the African savanna, to the treetops in the jungles of Asia, and finally back to the leaf-covered forests of their own backyards, campers are learning about conservation efforts through animal encounters, interactive games and activities, and field trips.
Central Florida Kids Experience Natural 'Magic' During Special Spring Camp at Walt Disney World Resort

And on top of it all, the children are having fun, as that is a key component of all of our learning experiences! In fact, we even had some honorary “campers” join us on the first day when they heard what a great time we were having exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rich Tamayo and Tye Arnold, the 2013-2014 Walt Disney World Ambassadors, joined the 6-to-8-year-old campers to explore Africa via the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and also by riding the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

“In bringing Disney conservation magic to local children, we know that those who participate will leave empowered to become champions for wildlife and nature and affect change to make the world a better place for all of us,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort.

Pretty fun way to spend spring break and make a difference for nature!
Central Florida Kids Experience Natural 'Magic' During Special Spring Camp at Walt Disney World Resort

Want to help people, communities and the planet? Spread the word by sharing this blog post with your friends and family. Learn more about Disney’s community and conservation efforts both locally and around the world at WDWnews.com/about/environment/ and Disney.com/conservation. Experience more of our conservation work by participating in our guest offerings, such as Backstage Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


Read on for more “Wildlife Wednesdays”:

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Wildlife Wednesdays: From Elephants to Educators — Disney Helping African Wildlife by Helping African Communities

posted on January 16th, 2013 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


So what do elephants and educators have in common? Here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they happen to have quite a bit in common: it was our conservation work with elephants in the wild that led to our conservation education work in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, where we are connecting with communities by engaging local South African educators in hands-on workshops.

 
As shared in the accompanying video, Disney’s Animal Programs educators have created a hands-on workshop that is offered to educators living in rural communities in South Africa, where there is a diversity of landscape and vegetation that shelters an abundance of wildlife, including not only the “Big Five” animals (elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, lion, leopard), but many other species as well, such as cheetah, giraffe and hippo.
From Elephants to Educators — Disney Helping African Wildlife by Helping African Communities

To aid the educators in better understanding how to protect and care for African wildlife, we incorporate conservation actions into the workshop that can be integrated into classroom lessons for the students. As these teachers increase their connection to the natural world through the workshop training, conservation lessons learned, and experiences provided, they have the capacity to influence not only the thousands of school children they teach collectively, but also the multitude of families who live in their communities.

Helping the people who live side by side with endangered wildlife is an essential part of conservation, and that truly is the essence of this program, along with bringing just a little bit of our Disney magic to nature’s magic for the benefit of African wildlife.
From Elephants to Educators — Disney Helping African Wildlife by Helping African Communities

Want to help? Spread the word by sharing this blog post with your friends and family. Learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts around the world. Experience more of our conservation work by participating in our guest offerings, such as Backstage Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or visiting our African Cultural Representatives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Learn more about the organizations Disney is working with on this project – &Beyond Africa and Africa Foundation.

Readers of the Disney Parks Blog may remember some earlier posts that referred to this work in South Africa — check out these other posts in the Wildlife Wednesdays series:

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Central Florida Kids Connect with Nature During a Special Day Camp at the Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 11th, 2012 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


Connecting kids with nature for the benefit of kids and the planet — I can’t think of a better topic for my first post on the Disney Parks Blog.

Central Florida Kids Connect with Nature During a Special Day Camp at the Walt Disney World Resort

Last month, Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members teamed up with Walt Disney World Community Relations to offer a special spring conservation day camp to 120 Central Florida children.

The first through eighth grade campers got a chance to connect with nature and meet animals from five continents, including those in our own backyard here in North America, during the camp at the Walt Disney World Resort. The children, who were selected from Central Florida neighborhood centers, attended camp during their week-long school vacations.

Central Florida Kids Connect with Nature During a Special Day Camp at the Walt Disney World Resort

In addition to activities and adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, campers took field trips to The Seas with Nemo & Friends and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Highlights included making special treats for some of the animals, including preparing cantaloupe slices, corn on the cob and other special food treats to be hung as enrichment in the bat habitat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After making the enrichment, campers headed to the Maharajah Jungle Trek and watched as the fruits and vegetables were hung by an animal keeper. The campers were delighted to watch the bats enjoy the treats — the campers knew exactly which ones they had made!

“With a philanthropic focus on children and conservation, we believe this kind of exposure could spark a life-long passion, or even career aspiration, for conservation,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort. “Through this experience, we hope these day campers will feel empowered to become champions for wildlife and nature and affect change to make the world a better place for all of us.”

At the end of the week, we asked the campers what they will do to help wildlife and nature — and their responses were inspiring! They ranged from walking and riding bikes instead of driving, to saving water, energy and other natural resources, to protecting wildlife habitats so animals can not only survive but thrive. By helping these kids develop life-long conservation values through nature exploration and discovery, we hope to stimulate creativity and inspire life-long learning in these kids, as well as create a vision for a future filled with nature.

In the words of Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young, it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”

Take a look at the video and see how much fun connecting with nature can be, muddy hands, grass-stained sleeves and all!

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