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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.

Frogs are Being Celebrated at the Connecting Families with Nature Events at Walt Disney World Resort Frogs are Being Celebrated at the Connecting Families with Nature Events at Walt Disney World Resort

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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Wildlife Wednesdays: New Release of “Disney The Jungle Book,” with Disney’s Animal Kingdom Bonus Features, Showcases Legacy of Great Storytelling Featuring Animals

posted on February 19th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Walt Disney’s fascination with animals—both real and imagined—and the role that animals play in Disney storytelling is the basis for an inspiring legacy that continues today. A fantastic example is the release of the Diamond Edition of “Disney The Jungle Book”, the last animated feature personally produced by Walt.

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For the first time ever on Blu-ray, the film features unforgettable characters and thrilling adventures with Mowgli as he journeys deep into the jungle and learns “The Bare Necessities” of life from happy-go-lucky Baloo the bear. Included in the all-new Blu-ray bonus features are the real-life animals that were so often a source of inspiration for Walt.

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Here’s a look at one of the bonus features—a fun visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom by Blake Michael and G. Hannelius, stars of “Dog With a Blog,” to learn how Disney’s Animal Programs cast members care for our elephants.

Did you know?

  • Asian elephants are featured in “Disney The Jungle Book;” you can find their African cousins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
  • Disney Movie Rewards members can enter for a chance to win a wild vacation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney Movie Rewards membership is free. To enter the Jumpin’ Jungle Sweepstakes, visit http://www.disneymovierewards.go.com/

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Wildlife Wednesdays: White-Cheeked Gibbons Sing Love Song at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 12th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


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In last week’s Wildlife Wednesdays post on our white-cheeked gibbons at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we mentioned that gibbon couples sing together.

We noted that adult pairs sing to advertise the establishment of their territory or to warn off other family groups. The gibbons’ duets also help to strengthen pair bonds, and single adults sing to attract a mate. A Disney Parks Blog fan asked what the gibbons’ songs sound like. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here’s a short video that features our gibbons’ morning duet. Enjoy!

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Animal Sweethearts ‘Hanging Out’ in Expanded Play Area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 5th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


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When it comes to an expanded outdoor space, human sweethearts might appreciate a new patio for Valentine’s Day where they can enjoy romantic dinners or morning coffee. Our animal sweethearts, the white-cheeked gibbons, on the other hand, are enjoying “hanging out” in a new outdoor space that’s perfect for them—an additional climbing structure that was added to their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom just in time for Valentine’s Day.
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Our white-cheeked gibbons, one of the few species of animals that maintain a monogamous relationship, along with their three offspring, are climbing, playing, and singing (yes—gibbons sing!) on a new structure that was added to their habitat near the Kali River Rapids and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The play area gives guests an even better view of the gibbons as they swing and climb.

The next time you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to stop by to see our gibbon family.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Animal Sweethearts “Hanging Out” in Expanded Play Area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesdays: Animal Sweethearts “Hanging Out” in Expanded Play Area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Fun Facts:

  • Gibbons live in small monogamous families, consisting of a mated pair with their offspring. Grooming and playing are important social activities for gibbons, and the couples sing together. Adult pairs sing to advertise the establishment of their territory or to warn off other family groups. The gibbons’ duets help to strengthen pair bonds, and pairs can be identified by their particular song. Single adults will sing to attract a mate.
  • You may think you are looking at two different kinds of apes when you see the gold and the black gibbons, but you are actually seeing a female and a male. The babies are born gold to blend in with mom and then change color around one year old. The males stay black, but the females will change back to the gold color when they are sexually mature.
  • Gibbons produce offspring about once every 2 to 3 years after 7 to 8 months of gestation. Generally, females give birth to a single offspring. Infants have the ability to cling to their mothers immediately after birth, which allows females complete range of motion while locomoting with their offspring.
  • White-cheeked gibbons can be found in the canopy of tropical rainforests of Laos, Vietnam and southern China.
  • Gibbons spend their whole lives in the canopy of the forests. You can help their forest homes by purchasing shade-grown coffee and other forest-friendly products.

To learn about Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation

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It’s the Year of the Horse — What Better Time to Share News From the Tri-Circle-D-Ranch at the Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 22nd, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


The Chinese New Year will be celebrated at the end of this month, and it’s the Year of the Horse — what better time to share some news from the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at the Walt Disney World Resort, where horses are celebrated every year and all year-round.

Our team at the ranch is excited to report that two new Clydesdale horses have just joined the ranch family. Named Gates and Rookie, they each weigh about 1,800 pounds and are 18 hands tall. A hand, which was originally based on the breadth of a human hand, equals 4 inches.

The two new Clydesdales will be starting their training program this week. Soon after that, guests will be able to meet Gates and Rookie during wagon rides, which depart from the front of Pioneer Hall at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, and carriage rides, also at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort as well as Disney’s Port Orleans Resort.

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The team is excited to welcome these two new horses to our herd of more than 90 horses and ponies at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch.

During your next visit to the Walt Disney World Resort, be sure to make time for a wagon ride, carriage ride, pony ride, or take the reins yourself for a horseback trail ride through the natural wonders of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Trail rides are offered daily (weather permitting). Pony rides are offered just feet from Pioneer Hall, where guests also can watch a blacksmith shoe our horses and take a stroll through the Draft Horse Barn. To find out more about the trail rides, carriage rides, pony rides and more click here.

Did you know:

  • Walt Disney loved horses! This was apparent from his recreational activities to his countless action movies and animated classics that feature horses.
  • Clydesdales are a breed of heavy draft horse. They originated from Scottish farm horses over 200 years ago.
  • Cinderella’s ponies, who participate in many magical weddings by pulling Cinderella’s Carriage, also make their home at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
  • The cast members at the ranch are members of the Disney’s Animal Programs team, which includes the cast members who care for our animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
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