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Wildlife Wednesdays: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Cast Cares for Pets, as Well as Endangered Monkeys, in Colombia

posted on April 10th, 2013 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


I just returned from an inspiring trip to Colombia, South America, and am excited to tell you about it. As part of our conservation program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we are working to protect a critically endangered monkey, the cotton-top tamarin found only in Colombia. Proyecto Tití also works with local communities to reduce the number of cotton-top tamarins that are in the illegal pet trade. Their program teaches kids to keep “wildlife in the wild” and to say “No” to pet monkeys and “Yes” to building a special bond with their dogs or cats.
Disney’s Animal Care Team Promotes Dog Training in Colombia

Of course, teaching the kids and their families how to keep their pets healthy is an important part of this, and representatives from the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine came to Colombia as part of a pilot program that included providing vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and other medical care for the dogs and cats of Los Limites, a village that borders our cotton-top tamarin field site. Keeping the pets healthy also reduces the possibility of disease transmission to both the people and the wildlife in the area.

Disney’s Animal Care Team Promotes Dog Training in Colombia Disney’s Animal Care Team Promotes Dog Training in Colombia

We also wanted to help kids and their families develop a new appreciation for their pets by helping kids understand how their dogs are smart and motivated to please. Disney’s animal care team members Marty MacPhee, Maggio Gonio, and Mauricio Saldarriaga helped create a program, which we piloted with a group of kids from Los Limites, on how to train your dog and learn about dog behavior. Mauricio traveled with me to Colombia to teach the program. Included were great activities that helped the kids learn how to decode dog behavior by watching the position of a dog’s ears and tail, and, of course, keeping an eye out for facial expressions and learning to speak “dog.” They really loved creating their own dog mask with moveable ears and acting out different dog behaviors. They really enjoyed playing the training game, trying to train each other to perform a specific behavior without using words. It really is hard to get someone to understand what you want when you can’t use words. But once the kids learned that the sound of a clicker means that you are correct, and that there is a tasty treat on the way, they found a new way to train their own dogs! Take a look at the short video clip of one of the children, Angie, training her dog, Congo. Be sure to look closely for the not-so-hidden Mickey hand on the end of the target stick!

 
At the end of the program, we had a graduation ceremony, and the children received diplomas for completing their first dog training class. They were so proud of everything they had accomplished. Seeing their smiling faces, and their heartfelt promise to keep training and caring for their dogs, makes me realize just how important programs like these are for kids who live in Los Limites. Helping people care for their dogs, so that they can appreciate just how much fun it is to have that special relationship with a pet, is not only good for people, but ultimately helps protect the wildlife of Colombia.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Local Girl Scouts Join Cast Members for Third Annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count – Over 16,000 Birds Counted

posted on January 30th, 2013 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Local Girl Scouts Join Cast Members for Third Annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count Local Girl Scouts Join Cast Members for Third Annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count

Guests tell us they love connecting with nature in our beautiful green spaces during their visits to the Walt Disney World Resort, so I’m especially excited to share some news and a fun video from our third annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count, organized by our Disney’s Animal Programs team for cast members and their families. This year, thanks to Walt Disney World Community Relations, members of four Central Florida Girl Scout troops joined cast members to count 107 different bird species and over 16,000 individual birds! Holiday Bird Count participants spotted some new species this year: Virginia Rail, Sora and a Merlin, as well as 20 Bald Eagles! Highlights included spotting several Great Blue Herons high up in the trees keeping a watchful eye over their nests — two nests in one tree — and a Blue Jay that was mimicking a hawk vocalizing as he chased a squirrel!

Local Girl Scouts Join Cast Members for Third Annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count Local Girl Scouts Join Cast Members for Third Annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count Local Girl Scouts Join Cast Members for Third Annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count

 
The day-long event enabled birders of all skill levels to discover which birds are found in Central Florida in the winter. In addition to inviting local Girl Scouts, another new element this year was a Family Birding Festival, where the Girl Scouts and cast members’ kids participated in a variety of fun activities that helped them learn to recognize bird calls and discover the amazing adaptations of various bird species that enable birds to thrive in the wild. Children and adults also participated in a nature walk to identify birds in the area, and they got to meet some of the amazing birds that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Enjoy the video — and let us know if you see any birds that also live in your hometown.

 
Did you know?

  • Since 1995, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has provided more than $6 million to support bird conservation around the world. In Florida, the DWCF has helped protect birds, including the Whooping Crane, Bald Eagle, Scrub Jay, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and Mangrove Cuckoo.
  • Our Holiday Bird Count is modeled after the Audubon Christmas bird count, which began in 1900.
  • Data collected in bird counts from year to year allows scientists to follow trends in bird populations and abundance over time. These trends help scientists focus their conservation efforts in key bird areas.
  • Nearly one third of the Walt Disney World Resort has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
  • An abundance of birds make their home in Florida year-round, and even more birds are here during the winter as they migrate from the north to Florida and beyond. You can find out more at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 8 as we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.
  • We can help birds and other wildlife by disposing of waste properly, including recycling, to keep trash out of natural areas, and by observing birds and other wildlife from a safe distance and not feeding them “human” food, which is not healthy for them.

 
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Disney Efforts Help to Protect the Golden Lion Tamarin’s Forest Home

posted on December 12th, 2012 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


About the size of a squirrel and with a beautiful silky reddish-gold coat, the golden lion tamarin is truly one of nature’s wonders. Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom can see this tiny endangered monkey at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I was fortunate enough this summer to see these animals in the only place in the world where they are found in the wild: the forests of Brazil.
The Golden Lion Tamarin

I have to say it was quite an adventure to meet my first wild golden lion tamarin thanks to The Golden Lion Tamarin Association (Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado). With support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), the Association has been leading the effort to save forests for these amazing animals for the last 25 years.

Golden lion tamarins are quite a story. With the population hovering at only a few thousand, zoos around the world banded together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins born in their facilities to the wild. It was a success! These animals joined wild golden lion tamarins to form breeding groups that have brought this species back from the brink of extinction. Now, the country of Brazil even pictures a golden lion tamarin on the currency—that’s progress!
Disney Efforts Help to Protect the Golden Lion Tamarin’s Forest Home

Today’s conservation efforts focus on working with people to protect Brazil’s tropical forests to make sure the tamarins continue to have a home. The DWCF has helped support long-term conservation efforts to protect these forests and to develop public education programs that reach millions of people in rural communities and in the largest cities of Brazil.

And, as you’ll see in this new video, the DWCF, along with Disney’s Friends for Change, has helped The Golden Lion Tamarin Association engage the next generation of conservationists — Brazil’s young people — to protect the tamarin.

This is truly a program that we can all be so very proud of, as people in Brazil have rallied to protect this amazing animal for the future.

Did you know?

  • Golden lion tamarins measure only about a foot from the top of their heads to the base of their tails and weigh little more than a pound.
  • These small monkeys live high atop the canopy of the rainforest, where they can leap from branch to branch with amazing agility as they forage for food.
  • They live in family groups of 2 to 8 individuals, and all individuals in the group assist in the rearing of the newborn tamarins.

 
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Sea Turtles Race to the Finish Line While Their Nests Hatch Near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

posted on October 3rd, 2012 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


In August on the Disney Parks Blog, we began tracking two loggerhead sea turtles, Peach and Pearl, as they started out on an amazing journey. The turtles—named for characters in the Disney•Pixar film “Finding Nemo” —had been fitted with satellite transmitters and released on the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s 5th annual Tour de Turtles. Peach is sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and Pearl is sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Disney Friends For Change.
Sea Turtles Race to the Finish Line While Their Nests Hatch Near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

During the night of July 27, before their release the next morning, Peach and Pearl laid their nests on the beach close to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. We have some very exciting news—both Peach’s and Pearl’s nests have hatched! After several weeks of incubation, in which the nests withstood Tropical Storm Isaac and many other localized storm events, 92 sea turtle hatchlings emerged from Pearl’s nest and made their way to the ocean. The nest had a total of 99 eggs, giving it an amazing 93% hatching success. Peach’s nest also had an impressive hatching success: 86 out of 89 eggs hatched.

Peach's Tour de Turtles Map from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Pearl's Tour de Turtles Map from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

As you can see from their Tour de Turtles maps, Peach and Pearl both headed for the Gulf of Mexico. Peach headed up toward the Florida panhandle, and Pearl has remained just offshore of Ft. Myers, Florida, where she has apparently found good foraging grounds with lots of tasty crustaceans. “Satellite tracking research helps scientists and conservationists identify important feeding areas and migration pathways for loggerhead sea turtles, such as Pearl and Peach,” notes Dan Evans, Technology & Research Specialist at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “Knowing where loggerheads go to feed and the path they take from nesting beaches to reach these feeding areas helps direct policy and regulations that protect sea turtles from potential threats in their feeding areas and during their journey.”

Did you know?

  • Guests can find out more about sea turtle satellite tracking when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and everyone can cheer on Peach and Pearl online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
  • With about a month to go in the race, Peach is in 5th place and Pearl is in 8th place. Of course, all sea turtles are winners when we help them by not leaving trash on the beach and by turning off lights at night when visiting the beach.
  • Disney’s Animal Programs team members have marked and monitored 1,381 loggerhead sea turtle nests, 220 green sea turtle nests, and 11 leatherback sea turtle nests so far during the 2012 nesting season, which ends in late October.
  • During the nesting season, guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.



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Wildlife Wednesdays: Ready, Set, Go! Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Including Hatchlings from Cinderella the Sea Turtle’s Nest

posted on August 1st, 2012 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Sea turtle nesting season (May to October) is a hubbub of activity at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and the past couple of weeks have been no exception. In today’s blog post, I’m excited to share news on Cinderella the sea turtle’s nest and this year’s Tour de Turtles, as well as an amazing video of hatchlings emerging from their nest and heading to the sea.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Ready, Set, Go! Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Including Hatchlings from Cinderella the Sea Turtle’s Nest

The race is on in Tour de Turtles. Last Saturday morning, more than 500 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests cheered as two loggerhead sea turtles, who had laid their eggs on the beach the night before, returned to the sea. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released on the beach near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual Tour de Turtles event. The first turtle to swim the farthest will be declared the winner. The turtles are named after characters in the Disney•Pixar film “Finding Nemo.” Peach is sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and Pearl is sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Friends for Change.

Researchers from Disney’s Animal Programs and the Sea Turtle Conservancy will track the sea turtles using satellite telemetry as they travel from their nesting beach to various feeding grounds. Using this technology, scientists learn about sea turtles’ habits at sea and the different migratory patterns of each species. This knowledge helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation actions and policies. Guests can find out about this research and follow the tracks of the turtles when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Ready, Set, Go! Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Including Hatchlings from Cinderella the Sea Turtle’s Nest

Readers of the Disney Parks Blog will remember that a June 6 blog post told the story of Cinderella the sea turtle, who came up on the beach very late one night (after midnight, hence the name Cinderella) near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to lay her eggs. I promised to provide an update on the nest to report on how many hatchlings emerged. Cinderella’s nest is one of hundreds that Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor during sea turtle nesting season at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Cast members are marking new sea turtle nests daily, as well as monitoring existing nests until they hatch. Well, it was quite a summer for Cinderella’s nest. In late May, Tropical Storm Beryl washed over the nest. In early June, a large ghost crab took up residence a few feet from the nest, but, fortunately, didn’t do any digging at the nest site. In late June, Tropical Storm Debby washed over the nest. Sea turtle nests are quite vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, as they are likely to be inundated with water, which can harm the eggs. Cast members monitoring Cinderella’s nest in early July found a leatherback sea turtle hatchling that had been caught up in fishing line washed up on the beach. They freed the hatchling from the fishing line and released it at night, when it was cooler and the hatchling would be safer from predators.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Ready, Set, Go! Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Including Hatchlings from Cinderella the Sea Turtle’s Nest

Finally, in late July, the eggs in Cinderella’s nest hatched. We inventoried the nest, and she had a total of 121 eggs in the nest — 55 hatched and 66 didn’t. Why the low number of hatchlings? Well, Tropical Storm Debby seemed to have had an effect on her nest; she laid her nest in an area that received a lot of wave action over her nest, but still those 55 hatchlings made it to the ocean. That same day we inventoried another nest that was laid in the sand above Cinderella’s nest, and it had 123 eggs, of which 118 hatched and only 5 didn’t. Here is some video footage taken with special night vision equipment of hatchlings emerging from the nest. As for the hatchlings, you can see that we were very careful not to interfere with their ability to reach the ocean safely. We are excited to share this video of one of nature’s most amazing wonders. Enjoy!

Did you know?

  • In “Finding Nemo,” “Peach” is a starfish and “Pearl” is an octopus.
  • In the Tour de Turtles, each turtle acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Peach is raising awareness about the threat of light pollution on the beach. Since sea turtle hatchlings rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean, many become disoriented and drawn off-course by artificial light sources. Pearl is raising awareness about the threat of entanglement. Turtles can become tangled in trash and nets, and drown.
  • Each year, approximately 50,000 female sea turtles lay their eggs on Florida beaches, making the state’s beaches one of the most important nesting areas in the world. Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth and have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years. In the United States, as much as 90 percent of sea turtle nesting occurs in Florida, which serves as a primary nesting site for several species of endangered and threatened sea turtles.
  • Guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest. And, of course, people can help turtles year-round by taking action to reduce waste, save water and keep it clean, and reduce emissions.



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Wildlife Wednesdays: Rare Hawks Call Walt Disney World Resort Home

posted on July 11th, 2012 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


The Walt Disney World Resort is a great place to visit, not only because of our incredible theme parks and resorts, but also because of the beautiful, natural surroundings. Many of you may know that nearly one-third of the property has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area. What you may not know is that, in addition to caring for the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Seas with Nemo & Friends and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, Disney’s Animal Care Team monitors birds, butterflies, reptiles and other native wildlife that make their home on Walt Disney World Resort property.

“A

As part of this work, we’ve been keeping an eye out for short-tailed hawks – a species of concern in the state of Florida and considered one of the rarest, least understood birds in North America. Considering that there are fewer than 200 breeding pairs of this kind of hawk in Florida, we were very excited to find our first pair of breeding short-tailed hawks here at the Walt Disney World Resort in 2005.

“Walt

A pair of these hawks has been coming back to Walt Disney World Resort property each year for several years to nest and rear their young. This year, we were thrilled to discover a second pair and were able to regularly monitor the chick until it finally left the nest. Next time you visit the Walt Disney World Resort, be sure to spend some time connecting with nature by observing the amazing native wildlife and enjoying the beautiful green spaces—you might even have a short-tailed hawk sighting.

Short-tailed hawk fun facts:

  • Short-tailed hawks are American birds of prey and are in the same family as eagles. The hawks can be dark or light in color, and at one time it was thought that the dark and light hawks were different species.
  • Short-tailed hawks usually build a new nest each year but will sometimes use a nest from a previous year.
  • When chicks are about 30 days old, they begin taking short flights to neighboring trees. Full flight and soaring has been observed about two weeks later.
  • These hawks are difficult to see unless in flight, since they perch high up in dense tree canopy, but sightings of soaring short-tailed hawks are frequent in their range.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: The Story of Cinderella the Sea Turtle at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

posted on June 6th, 2012 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Everyone loves our Florida beaches — and that includes several species of endangered sea turtles. In fact, more endangered loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on Florida beaches than on just about any other beach in the world!

“Marked

There is nothing more spectacular than watching a female sea turtle who has been swimming in the ocean for 20-30 years decide that it’s now time to lay her very first clutch of eggs on the beach. Not everyone has the opportunity to see a nesting turtle (of course, it’s important that we not disturb them), so how about you follow me on a nighttime walk on the beach?

It is a lovely, breezy night on the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort a couple of weeks ago as I start my walk. It’s overcast, the waves are calm, and there are not very many people on the beach, which means it should be a good night for sea turtle nesting. With night-vision goggles around my neck, I’m ready to look for a sea turtle that is going to make her way from the water to the dune to lay her eggs.

But for hours there’s nothing … not even a hint of a sea turtle head emerging from the water. I keep walking. Still nothing … at least it is a nice night to look at the stars. You can see so many more stars by using the night-vision goggles, and I tell myself that this is great exercise. Several hours later: still walking and not a single sign of a sea turtle. What is going on?

Finally, I see a loggerhead sea turtle! I do believe that “Cinderella” is a fitting name for this late princess — Cinderella didn’t make it home from the ball by midnight, and Cinderella the sea turtle didn’t make it up to the beach until after midnight — 1:28 a.m., to be exact!

“Sea

She slowly makes her way from the ocean, pulling her 200+ pound body through the sand — her shell is almost three feet long. It’s hard work for a turtle who is so buoyant in the ocean to crawl up the beach! She stops frequently to take a breath and then moves near the dune. Once she finds a spot in the sand, Cinderella begins to dig her nest chamber using just her back flippers! It’s amazing to think she can create a nest without being able to see what is going on! At about 2 a.m., she begins to drop eggs into the egg chamber. The nest chamber is about two feet deep — so why don’t the eggs break as they fall to the bottom? It’s because sea turtles eggs are not hard shelled, but rather soft like very thin leather. Cinderella is filling her nest chamber with a lot of eggs. Loggerheads typically lay between 100-120 eggs in each nest!

Once she finishes laying her eggs, she uses her back flippers to gently put sand around the eggs, and then covers it to disguise it from predators by spreading lots of sand around with her front and back flippers. It’s 2:30 a.m. when she finishes and heads back to the ocean. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper behind, but she does leave a nest full of eggs that should hatch in approximately 60 days.

One week after Cinderella left her nest, tropical storm Beryl reached Vero Beach. With the large storm surge, Cinderella’s nest was washed over with waves, but don’t worry, the nest is doing just fine, with just a little seaweed as a reminder of how high the waves can reach during these tropical storms (perhaps her fairy godmother waved her magic wand!). We’ll do a follow-up post on the Disney Parks Blog in July and let you know how many hatchlings emerged!

Did you know?

  • To help protect the sea turtles, Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor sea turtle nesting activity along the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The research team surveys the beach every day during the summer, recording all new sea turtle nests, marking them and rechecking marked nests to determine how many hatchlings finally emerge. To find out more, check out this video:

Disney Parks and Resorts Guests Can Help Sea Turtles By Adopting a Nest Disney Parks and Resorts Guests Can Help Sea Turtles By Adopting a Nest
  • Guests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends can help turtles by adopting a sea turtle nest. The adoption fee helps sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). Guests receive an adoption certificate complete with the date of adoption, the date the nest was laid, the species of sea turtle, and the nest number (Cinderella’s nest number is CCN096); a Squirt keychain; and a Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund hero button. Since its inception in 1995, the DWCF has contributed more than $1.1 million to sea turtle research in 15 countries.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Bird is the Word for Cast Members During 2nd Annual Walt Disney World Resort Bird Count

posted on January 25th, 2012 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Last Saturday, I got to spend the day doing one of the things I like best—outside enjoying nature right here at the Walt Disney World Resort. I participated, along with my fellow Disney cast members and their families and friends, in the 2nd annual holiday bird count at the Walt Disney World Resort and surrounding area organized by the Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team.

“Disney

We counted an amazing 115 different bird species and over 22,000 individual birds! We were so excited to spot some rare bird species such as Florida scrub-jays, peregrine falcons, roseate spoonbills, red-headed woodpeckers, limpkins, buffleheads, and 17 bald eagles! But the biggest treat was seeing more than 5,500 American robins as they winter in Florida before they migrate north in the spring.

“Disney

Guests had fun joining in, stopping – for example – to view a magnificent hawk perched high in World Showcase at Epcot, and lingering in the evening as they were leaving Disney’s Animal Kingdom to join us in watching white ibises, little blue herons, snowy egrets, and a variety of other birds return to an area near the Oasis to roost for the night.

See how many birds you can count in this video from the event!

Walt Disney World Resort Holiday Bird Count Fun Facts:

  • The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has provided more than $5.7 million to support bird conservation around the world.
  • Our holiday bird count is modeled after the Audubon Christmas bird count, which began in 1900.
  • Data collected in bird counts from year to year allows scientists to follow trends in bird populations and abundance over time. These trends help scientists focus their conservation efforts in key bird areas.
  • Nearly one-third of the Walt Disney World Resort has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
  • An abundance of birds make their home in Florida year-round, and even more birds are here during the winter as the migrate from the north to Florida and beyond. You can find out more at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 12 as we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.
  • We can help birds and other wildlife by observing them from a safe distance and not feeding them “human” food, which is unhealthy for them.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: At Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 12 Days That Make the World Better Year-Round

posted on December 7th, 2011 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Guests Visiting the Wildlife Tracking Center at Conservation Station Can Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas with a Disney's Animal Kingdom Twist

Three okapis shopping, five poop snowmen, six hippos wheeze-honking, ten sea turtles racing – sounds familiar, yet different, right?

It’s the 12 Days of Christmas with a Disney’s Animal Kingdom twist. No lords a leaping or ladies dancing for us, and – as much as we love birds – it’s cotton-top tamarins instead of partridges in a tree. Guests visiting the Wildlife Tracking Center at Conservation Station are having fun trying to find vignettes for all 12 days of Christmas, each highlighting the Wildlife Tracking Center’s involvement in conservation projects at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and around the world. It’s 12 days that make the world better year-round.

Guests Visiting the Wildlife Tracking Center at Conservation Station Can Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas with a Disney's Animal Kingdom Twist

Here’s how the game works: Guests who stop by the Wildlife Tracking Center are provided with a list of our unique 12 days of Christmas. They are challenged to search for all 12, each of which is linked to a Disney conservation project. Yes, even those five poop snowmen! It’s amazing what scientists and animal care experts can discover to help wildlife by examining poop. And six hippos wheeze-honking! Guests who are stopping by after experiencing the Wild Africa Trek (even Mickey Mouse!) know that the wheeze-honk is one of the most common sounds that hippos make.

By playing the game, guests also learn what they can do to protect wildlife and nature. Shared with guests are suggestions such as reusing gift wrap, boxes and bows; creating a backyard feast for wildlife by choosing native plants; using LED lights for holiday trees and at home; and saving energy by insulating their homes against the elements.

If you’re visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom throughout the month of December, be sure to stop by the Wildlife Tracking Center at Conservation Station and join in the fun. And if you’re planning a New Year’s resolution, we hope you’ll include one to spend more time connecting with wildlife and nature – it will make you feel good and it’s good for our planet.

To find out more, visit www.disney.com/environment.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Sea Turtles Race from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to Ocean Foraging Grounds

posted on October 12th, 2011 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Wildlife Wednesdays: Sea Turtles Race from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to Ocean Foraging Grounds

It’s very exciting to see where the sea turtles go once they leave their nesting beaches near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to find food in their favorite foraging grounds. Here’s an update on the Tour de Turtles race that was the topic of my August 3 Disney Parks Blog post.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Sea Turtles Race from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to Ocean Foraging Grounds

As you can see in her Tour de Turtles map, Lightning McQueen, sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, has taken an interesting path, swimming more than 1,103 miles and making her way toward Cuba. Rapunzel, sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, has taken a different approach swimming 87 miles and now enjoying some tasty treats found in her foraging grounds near The Bahamas.

While the sea turtles survived Hurricane Irene, their nests were washed over by the strong waves that hit the beach. Sadly, Rapunzel’s nest was washed away by the waves during the storm. Lightning McQueen picked a higher place on the beach to lay her eggs, and, while her nest was washed over with lots of waves during the storm, we are happy to report that her nest hatched on September 21. She laid 90 eggs and 53 of them survived the storm, hatched, and are now swimming in the big ol’ blue!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Sea Turtles Race from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to Ocean Foraging Grounds

Turtle Fun Facts:

  • Researchers from Disney’s Animal Programs and the Sea Turtle Conservancy track the sea turtles using satellite telemetry. Guests can find out about this research and follow the tracks of the turtles when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
  • Guests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Animal Kingdom can adopt a sea turtle nest. Find out more here. And, of course, you can help turtles year-round by taking action to reduce waste, save water and keep it clean, and reduce emissions.
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