The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure Park

Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarins Are ‘On the Move’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on October 15th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of excitement, updates and changes! Even some of the animals are in on the excitement, including two cotton-top tamarins, Gemma and Draco, who just moved into a new home.

Gemma, a female tamarin, has been delighting guests at Rafiki’s Planet Watch since December 2000 where she was voted “best personality” by her keepers. In March 2011, she moved to Discovery Island to debut the remodeled tamarin island in front of the Tree of Life. This week she was joined by Draco for her second grand opening in a brand new exhibit which will bring their world even closer to guests. Draco, a male tamarin, has spent most of his life with his parents and five siblings in an indoor exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo. He joined us at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in August. His debut will mark the first time he has experienced an outdoor exhibit! He has already been observed chasing lizards in his backstage area.

Cotton-top Tamarin Draco at Disney's Animal Kingdom Cotton-top Tamarin Gemma at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Since his arrival, Draco also has spent time becoming acquainted with his new mate, Gemma. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) identified the pair as potential mates within its Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP works to ensure long-term survival of species by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals. Through the efforts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SSP, more than 300 cotton-top tamarins are cooperatively managed in more than 80 U.S. zoos. Over the past few weeks, Gemma and Draco have shown great interest in each other, and we believe they will be happy and successful mates.

Cotton-top Tamarin Exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Cotton-top Tamarin Exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

While Gemma and Draco finish acclimating and comfortably settle into their new home over the next few weeks, their job as animal ambassadors is just beginning! The cotton-top tamarin is one of the most endangered primates in the world. A 2008 census conducted by our partners at Proyecto Tití in Colombia concluded that only 7,500 cotton-tops remained in the wild, and the population has been severely impacted by habitat destruction throughout its range in Colombia. This information prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Primate Specialist Group to recommend changing the classification of cotton-top tamarins from Endangered to Critically Endangered in 2008. Since then, Proyecto Tití increased their public outreach and education programs, stopped the development of a proposed airport, and secured two new protected areas for cotton-top tamarins and other wildlife to live safely in Colombia. The impact of the work is beginning to pay off, as we find communities are embracing conservation efforts and the population of cotton-tops appears stable!

One outreach program has taught women to crochet using plastic bags like the ones we bring home from the grocery store. (What a great way to recycle and keep trash out of the forest!) They make beautiful, colorful tote bags called ‘eco-mochilas’. These unique and environmentally friendly totes are sold locally in Colombia, online, and at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purchasing an eco-mochila helps communities in Colombia earn money for their families and protect forests that the cotton-top tamarins call home.

Don’t miss next week’s Wildlife Wednesday post to see Gemma and Draco in their new home, learn more about cotton-top conservation work and how education programs beginning in younger generations are positively affecting communities in Colombia. Until then, check out the video below to see some of the conservation work Proyecto Tití has already accomplished!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference!

posted on October 8th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


At the recent annual Association of Zoos and Aquariums meeting, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was recognized for our success with breeding a very special African bird. We received Top Honors (1st place) as the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award recipient for our Taveta golden weaver sustainability program.

The Edward H. Bean Award is a historic award within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognizing rearing or management programs that contribute to the reproductive success of one or more species (and/or subspecies). Award eligibility takes into account the significance of the breeding program for the conservation of the species and the long-term commitment to the breeding program. It identifies a truly significant effort that clearly enhances the conservation of a species.

Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference! Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference!

From 1998-2014, our Aviary team successfully bred over 900 Taveta golden weaver chicks, which was instrumental in safeguarding the North American population. These chicks now live in AZA accredited zoos across the country, helping ensure that we maintain a genetically diverse population. To help the overall profession, the team also published two articles in scientific peer reviewed journals, and they have shared research findings and best practices at various conference sessions over the years. Please join me in congratulating all who have worked to conserve this species (and many others) since Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998!

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Did you know … ?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Aviary team also received the Edward H. Bean Award in 2008 for success with Carmine Bee-eaters.
  • Disney’s Animal Programs cast members are a part of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team. In addition to caring for the many animals at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, the team strives to inspire Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to lead the way in environmental stewardship and connect people, animals, and plants to conserve nature for future generations.
  • Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team includes cast members who specialize in education, veterinary care, conservation, marine and land animals, and everything in between!
  • Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members also partner with various organizations to conserve wildlife and wild places across the globe.

Don’t miss next week’s Wildlife Wednesday to learn more about the exciting work of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team!

For more from the Wildlife Wednesday series, visit the posts below:

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Wildlife Wednesdays: World Oceans Day Celebration June 4 at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot

posted on May 28th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


On June 4 at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, families can explore, learn and play with a host of special activities in celebration of World Oceans Day.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a sea turtle? Sea turtles face great odds to reach adulthood. See a life-sized replica of a sea turtle nest and learn how hatchlings start their journey, and experience a turtle excluder device, used on fishing boats to keep sea turtles from getting caught in fishing nets.

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Hey dudes and dudettes, you can lend a helping flipper to Crush’s and Squirt’s pals by adopting a sea turtle nest at The Seas. During nesting season, Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach for sea turtle nests. You can adopt one of these very special nests and follow the status of the hatchlings online. 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 so you can track the nest online, as well as a Squirt keychain and a Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund hero button. The adoption fee goes to sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida.

You can meet animal care and other experts from The Seas. Talk with these experts about their roles and their day-to-day activities.

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Learn about coral reefs and the critical role they play in our oceans. Did you know that although coral reefs encompass only about 0.2% of the area on our planet, they are home to 25% of the world’s marine animals? These rainforests of the ocean are in danger of extinction due to nutrient pollution and ocean acidification. The Disney’s Animal Programs team at The Seas is committed to coral reef restoration and is currently working on a project in Abaco, The Bahamas. You can talk with Disney scientists and learn about the work they are doing.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund also is helping coral reefs by funding critical projects like one by the Coral Restoration Foundation, which is helping to engage communities in the protection of threatened coral populations in the Florida Keys. Take a look at the video:

On World Oceans Day, and every day, it’s important to remember that no matter where we live we are all connected to the oceans—any action we take that reduces waste (including recycling everything possible), saves water or keeps it clean, protects ocean wildlife or reduces emissions helps our oceans.
Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Can You Name These Animals? Hint: They’re All at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or The Seas with Nemo & Friends

posted on May 21st, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 International Day for Biological Diversity. Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot experience amazing biological diversity in the various species of animals that make their homes here.

Below are photos of just six of these animals. Can you identify them? Answers are at the bottom of the post.

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Each of us can help to protect the biological diversity of our planet through our everyday actions. Any action that reduces waste, saves water or keeps it clean, or reduces emissions can help make the world a better place for wildlife and all of us. For information on Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: World Turtle Day Celebrated May 20 at Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 14th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Guests can find out all kinds of fascinating information about turtles — including sea turtles like Crush and Squirt — and participate in a variety of activities for the whole family on May 20 when Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot celebrate World Turtle Day.

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At Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests may see a turtle getting a veterinary exam, try on a replica of a turtle shell, get an up-close look at some of the turtles and tortoises that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and talk with cast members about the conservation work they are doing to help turtles and tortoises that live on conservation land right here at the Walt Disney World Resort and in springs, rivers and oceans around the state.

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At The Seas with Nemo & Friends, children can climb through a full-size model of a turtle excluder device, used on fishing boats to prevent sea turtles from getting caught in nets. Families also can watch a sea turtle swimming gracefully by in the 5.7-million-gallon saltwater main aquarium, and play games that help them learn about the many threats turtles face, like getting entangled in trash and fishing line.

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Starting on World Turtle Day and continuing through the nesting season, guests visiting Conservation Station at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Seas at Epcot, and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort can help turtles by adopting a sea turtle nest. 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 so they can track their nest online, a Squirt keychain and a Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) hero button.

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Disney guests have adopted nearly 700 turtle nests so far, resulting in nearly $18,500 contributed to sea turtle conservation in Florida. Since its inception in 1995, the DWCF has contributed more than $1.2 million to sea turtle conservation around the world.

Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • June 4: World Ocean Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Birds of All Kinds of Feather Flock Together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 30th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Every day is for the birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where guests can see a variety of birds when they visit walk-through aviaries on both the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek, see the fantastic bird show Flights of Wonder, and encounter birds large and small throughout the park. On May 6, however, birds truly take center stage when we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

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Kids can get “banded” (which scientists do to gather data for bird conservation), becoming “honorary birds” for the day, and discover how their “feather color” (clothing), “wing span” (arm length), and height compares with various bird species. Families can play a diet-matching game and learn about the many different foods that our birds eat here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They may even get to see a bird examined by our veterinarians at the animal hospital.

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Families also can talk with Cast Members about conservation work they are doing to protect birds, including the purple martin, the piping plover, and the whooping crane, and find out how the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) supports bird conservation. The DWCF, for example, has supported Operation Migration’s work on behalf of the rare whooping crane every year since the program’s inception in 2000.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Birds of All Kinds of Feather Flock Together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesdays: Birds of All Kinds of Feather Flock Together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Wildlife Wednesdays: Birds of All Kinds of Feather Flock Together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesdays: Birds of All Kinds of Feather Flock Together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Did you know?

  • International Migratory Bird Day focuses on the nearly 350 species of birds that migrate from breeding areas in North America to winter homes in Central and South America and the Caribbean. These birds face many challenges as they migrate thousands of miles, including loss of habitat along their migration routes, finding food and avoiding predators. International Migratory Bird Day helps educate people about the threats to migratory birds and what we can do to help—including planting native trees and shrubs, keeping cats indoors, and sup­porting conservation organizations.

Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • May 20: World Turtle Day
  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • May 20: World Turtle Day
  • June 4: World Ocean Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Tammar Wallaby Baby at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Bids Guests “G’day”

posted on April 23rd, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom may get a special treat during a visit to the Oasis. Our Tammar wallaby is carrying a baby (called a “joey”) in her pouch, and the joey (the team doesn’t know yet whether it’s a girl or a boy) often pops its head out to take a look around. The new baby, mom Adelaide and dad Tucker, share their habitat in the Oasis with Australian wood ducks.

The tammar wallaby is the smallest species of wallaby, and is native to the southern and southwest coastal areas of Australia. These wallabies grow to about two feet tall, with males weighing about 16 pounds and females about 12 pounds. Just like kangaroos, the Tammar wallaby will use its hind legs to kick in defense when threatened.
The gestation period is 128 days, and the newborn weighs less than one gram when it makes its way into the pouch unassisted. It will remain in its mom’s pouch for eight or nine months.
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Tammar wallabies are herbivores that feed on grasses. Although they are not threatened in the wild, increases in domestic livestock have reduced the natural grassland vegetation available for wallabies. Introduced non-native species also can cause problems for native wildlife, like the wallaby, by creating competition for already scarce food and resources. This can be a problem for native wildlife in all parts of the world. We can do our part by preventing pets from bothering wildlife, and never releasing unwanted pets into the wild.

To find out more about Disney’s conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation

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Wildlife Wednesdays: The Seas with Nemo & Friends Earns Praise for Conservation Efforts, Animal Care from Accrediting Association

posted on April 16th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Earth Month is a time when we give extra thought to how we can protect our planet year-round, including our amazing oceans and marine wildlife. So it is with tremendous pride that I share the news that The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot was granted accreditation once again by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits only those aquariums and zoos that meet the highest standards,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “As a leader in wildlife conservation and animal care, inspiring millions of visitors each year, The Seas is ranked among the best aquariums in the world.”

To be accredited, The Seas underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal care; veterinary programs; conservation, research and education; safety; guest services; and quality of staff.

The accreditation process, which must be repeated in its entirety every five years, includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observed all aspects of the operation at The Seas, and met with and interviewed Seas and other Disney leadership and Cast.

Some of the points of particular achievement noted by the inspection team included:

  • The Seas conservation programs, including its partnership with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and conservation efforts in the state of Florida and beyond.
  • Education programs that address both local and global conservation, including guests with special needs.
  • Excellence in animal care, including enrichment, a strong program of veterinary care and nutrition, and research projects that foster animal health and knowledge focused on animals at The Seas and in the wild.
  • Staff who are dedicated, knowledgeable and exhibit a spirit of teamwork.

Being accredited by the AZA is an important way the team at The Seas with Nemo & Friends shows how much they care about connecting people with animals, and inspiring families and children to protect wildlife and nature.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Party for the Planet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; More Earth Day Fun at The Seas with Nemo & Friends

posted on April 9th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


In what has become a beloved annual tradition, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is hosting a Party for the Planet in celebration of Earth Day (April 22). Guests can find out what they can do to make their backyards wildlife-friendly and discover other ways to connect with, and conserve, wildlife and nature. They also can learn about some very special wildlife — brown bears in Alaska — in celebration of the release of “Bears,” Disneynature’s newest theatrical release.

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As guests enter the park, they can stop by a display in the main entrance area featuring wildlife-friendly backyard habitats and pick up a Party for the Planet postcard.

The fun continues at Rafiki’s Planet Watch where families can play a supermarket game and learn how their purchases can make a big difference for wildlife and wild places, discover new ways to spend time in nature, talk to cast members who work on conservation projects around the world, participate in a variety of nature activities—including activities focused on brown bears — and find out more about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

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Face painters and caricature artists will be extending into Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and featuring bear-themed and other animal designs.

Special merchandise will be available at locations throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and, through April 30, a Safari-costumed Duffy the Disney Bear will be sold at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. One dollar from each sale will be donated to the National Park Foundation through Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund to celebrate Disneynature “Bears.”

At Epcot, Earth Day will be celebrated at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, where children can find out (by trying it!) how turtle excluder devices protect sea turtles, and learn about conservation efforts to protect coral reefs, manatees, sharks and the many other amazing creatures that inhabit our oceans. At VISION House in Innoventions at Epcot, a ground-breaking green show home exhibit, guests can learn about sustainable living, and on Earth Day, also can play the supermarket game to learn how their purchases can help wildlife and nature.

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Be on the lookout for other Earth Day activities at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Did you know?

  • Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure “Bears” arrives in theaters April 18, just in time for Earth Day. See the movie during its opening week (April 18-24, 2014) and Disneynature will make a donation to the National Park Foundation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect wildlife and nature.
  • Bears are one of the featured animals in the new free Disneynature Explore app. Click here to download Disneynature Explore free on the App Store.

Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • May 6: International Migratory Bird Day
  • May 20: World Turtle Day
  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • May 20: World Turtle Day
  • June 4: World Ocean Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: It’s Time to Spring Forward To Help Frogs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 26th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


It’s that time of year again—spring is just around the corner and, even before that, we’ll be adjusting our clocks forward for Daylight Saving time. It’s also the time of year that we “spring forward” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to celebrate frogs, toads and other amphibians.

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When guests visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch on March 4, during a special connecting families with nature event, meet cool amphibians and the animal experts who care for them. They also will be able to make toad abodes (special homes for frogs and toads) for their backyards, try leaping like a frog, listen to frog calls, and examine amphibian adaptations.

Guests can find out about Florida’s native frogs, which are one of the many animals that are part of the Disney’s Animal Programs native wildlife program. Our team monitors animals as varied as amphibians, gopher tortoises and butterflies, as well as dozens of bird species at the Walt Disney World Resort, where nearly one-third of the property has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.

Guests also can learn about the critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad, which we are raising at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and releasing in their native habitat to re-populate the species in an area where these toads once thrived but are now considered extinct.

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Did you know that, according to some estimates, as many as one-third of the known amphibian species are threatened by extinction because of loss of habitat, climate change, pollution and disease? To find out more about Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation

Here’s how to help frogs:

  • Invite a bug-zapping amphibian into your backyard by placing an overturned pot (toad abode) as a home–frogs provide a free pest-control service (they eat billions of harmful insects annually, including mosquitoes and their larvae)
  • Use fewer chemical pesticides on your lawn to keep amphibians healthy
  • Build a pond, plant native shrubs, and leave leaf litter and logs in your yard to create a habitat for frogs
  • Find natural alternatives to household chemicals so these toxins don’t end up in amphibian habitats
  • Plan a family outing to a local pond to hear different species of frogs sing their love songs to one another
  • Take part in a local pond or stream clean-up to ensure that native amphibians will have a clean home

Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • April 22: Party for the Planet for Earth Day
  • May 6: International Migratory Bird Day
  • May 20: World Turtle Day
  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • April 22: Earth Day
  • May 20: World Turtle Day
  • June 4: World Ocean Day
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