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Wildlife Wednesdays: Lions, Tigers, Bears and More Celebrated at 2014 Families and Nature Events at the Walt Disney World Resort

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


You asked and we listened! We’ve heard from Disney Parks Blog fans that you’d like to know as early as possible what special events the Disney’s Animal Programs team has planned for the year, so you can include them in your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. Some of our Florida resident guests, for example, make it a point to come to every one of these events — a great compliment to our dedicated cast who are thrilled to welcome them.

The events take place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. The goal of each is to provide kids and families with a special opportunity to connect with nature, talk to our animal experts, and learn more about some of the fantastic creatures with whom we share our planet. Here’s the list of our 2014 events. Watch the Disney Parks Blog for more detailed posts shortly before each one. We hope to see you at one or more of them!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Lions, Tigers, Bears and More Celebrated at 2014 Families and Nature Events at the Walt Disney World Resort Wildlife Wednesdays: Lions, Tigers, Bears and More Celebrated at 2014 Families and Nature Events at the Walt Disney World Resort Wildlife Wednesdays: Lions, Tigers, Bears and More Celebrated at 2014 Families and Nature Events at the Walt Disney World Resort

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

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • March 4: Spring Forward for Amphibians Day — Just a few days before we adjust our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time, we’re “springing forward” to celebrate frogs, toads and other amphibians.
  • April 22: Party for the Planet in celebration of Earth Day — Every day is a Party for the Planet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as guests and cast members join together to celebrate the wonders of nature, but, on Earth Day, there will be even more natural magic. Included is a celebration of the release of Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure “Bears,” in theaters April 18, which showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons.
  • May 6: International Migratory Bird Day — Time to celebrate of one the wonders of nature – bird migration – and the ways we can help protect birds on their journeys.
  • May 20: World Turtle Day — Turtles are fascinating creatures, and really cool dudes, too – just ask Crush! Both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends celebrate turtles with special activities.
  • June 10: Pollinator Day — butterflies, bees and other pollinators are the stars of this celebration.
  • July 29: Big Cat Day — It’s all about the largest cats, like lions and tigers – cats to whom you wouldn’t want to say, “here, kitty, kitty.”
  • August 5: Primate Day — The perfect place to find out what a 400-pound gorilla and a one-pound cotton-top tamarin have in common.
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day — Learn fun facts and important conservation information about magnificent and endangered elephants and rhinos.

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • April 22: Earth Day Celebration — It’s an ocean of fun at The Seas on Earth Day as this Earth Day celebration focuses on marine animals.
  • May 20: World Turtle Day — See the magnificent sea turtles swim by in the main aquarium and find out what each of us can do to keep turtles safe in the wild.
  • June 4: World Oceans Day — Join Nemo, Dory, Crush and the rest of the gang in celebrating the wonders of the oceans.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Animals Enjoy Holiday Fun Too at Walt Disney World Resort

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


Our guests and cast members are not the only ones who experienced special delights during the holidays at Walt Disney World Resort. Our animals did too! This holiday season, the Disney’s Animal Programs Science Operations Team hosted a competition for the animal care teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The goal: craft creative holiday experiences for the animals in their care.

The competition encouraged teams to design holiday “gifts” for their animals to highlight the animals’ natural behaviors, introduce the holiday spirit and provide unique viewing opportunities for our guests. We thought it would be fun to share a few of the many great ideas the animal care staff came up with — so here it goes!

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Bat holiday wreath — One of our Malayan flying foxes enjoys a holiday wreath made of natural grasses and nutritious vegetables on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

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Springbok holiday tree — A pair of springbok investigate a tree ornamented with fresh produce on the savanna of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

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Holiday-themed snack for giraffe — One of our Masai giraffe explores this festive feeding device filled with nutritious treats in view of guests.

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Tiger meets snowman — A tiger makes “friends” with a holiday snowman crafted by the animal care team of holiday-scented paper mache.

Did you know?

A progressive and integrated enrichment program plays a key role in delivering uncompromising excellence in animal care and welfare. Enrichment encourages animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, which is mentally and physically healthy for them, and also enables guests to see the cool adaptations that help the animals survive. You can enrich the lives of wildlife and encourage natural behaviors in your own backyard by adding a bird bath, native plants, log piles and bird houses. Then, sit back and enjoy the fun of watching the wildlife up close! To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: A Look Back at a Few Baby Animals Welcomed in 2013

posted on December 18th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


As the year comes to a close, let’s take a look back at a few of the baby animals we welcomed in 2013.

In March, we shared the news about a saddle-billed stork chick hatched at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Not only was this chick a first for its parents, but also a first for the park. In the same post, we reported on the birth of a white-cheeked gibbon. This baby joined a family consisting of mom, dad, big sister and big brother.

Saddle-billed stork chick Infant white-cheeked gibbon and its mother

The summer brought word from Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization that receives support from Disney, about an amazing birth. Tamara, a cotton-top tamarin who lives in the forest of Colombia, South America, had just given birth to her 12th litter and 22nd infant.

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In October, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, we welcomed a baby Hartmann’s mountain zebra. The population of this rare species of zebra is teetering at just under 50 animals in the U.S.

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At Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, we had a record number of sea turtle nests in 2013 — 1,654 to be exact — which resulted in thousands of baby sea turtles. What fantastic news for conservation!

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I also couldn’t go without mentioning our baby siamang twins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Although they weren’t born in 2013, they began spending lots of time this year in their habitat in the Asia area of the park, always under the watchful eye of their dad Kenny and, of course, our animal care team.

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These new additions represent conservation successes for both species in human care and in the wild. They are a source of inspiration for me, and a reminder to do all I can to protect wildlife and nature. I am proud and thankful that our guests tell us again and again that they are inspired too. Happy holidays!

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Among First Green Lodges, Disney Florida Resorts Once Again Receive This Eco-Friendly Honor

posted on November 20th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


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Nearly 10 years ago, when the State of Florida began its Green Lodging program, Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort were among the first hotels in the state to receive this honor. The rest of our resorts soon followed. I’m proud to report that The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently renewed the Green Lodging designation for all the Disney-owned and operated resorts in Florida.

This three-year distinction is a way to recognize hotels that help protect Florida’s natural resources through efforts that reduce waste, conserve water and energy, improve air quality, and raise awareness of environmental conservation. Here are a few of the ways we are working to conserve resources at our resorts:

  • Recycling in guest rooms and resort public areas, and printing in-room guest information on recycled paper.
  • Creatively using energy-efficient lighting, monitoring thermostats, and turning off lights and equipment when not in use.
  • Collecting for recycling by Clean the World used soaps, shampoos, conditioners and lotions, which are then reprocessed and distributed by this nonprofit organization to impoverished people with a goal of preventing millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses. In 2012 alone, cast members collected more than 128,000 pounds of hygiene products that were reprocessed into 393,000 soap bars.
  • Through the Disney Harvest program, collecting unused prepared foods from resort kitchens that is distributed through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. More than 1,000 local children are fed weekly through this program.

Ways in Which Disney Florida Resorts Promote Conservation Ways in Which Disney Florida Resorts Promote Conservation

A big thank you goes out to our guests, who join us in conserving resources, including by recycling, switching off lights, TVs and ceiling fans, and adjusting thermostats when they leave their resort rooms.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Fun Facts Shared on Rhino Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on November 6th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


What does your hair have in common with a rhino horn?

To answer the question above: If your hair can be unruly like mine, hopefully it’s not your look on a bad hair day! What do they have in common? Human hair and a rhino’s horn are both made of keratin, a protein that is a basic component of our fingernails, too.

Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Rhino Day (November 12) will discover lots of fun facts about the magnificent rhinoceros. Here are a couple more: A group of rhinos is called a “crash,” and there are five kinds of rhino: white, black, Indian, Sumatran and Javan. Every day, guests can see white and black rhinos on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, including the rhino calf that was born last year. And on the Wild Africa Trek, guests can relax on the boma landing and watch the white rhinos and many other animals on the savannas. On Rhino Day, guests can participate in special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, including learning what rhinos eat, how we care for the rhinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the creative ways that the animal care team is supporting rhino conservation.

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Did you know?

  • The success of the white rhino breeding program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has enabled our animal care team to make a direct contribution to the conservation of white rhinos in the wild. In 2006, Nande and Hasani, two rhinos born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, traveled to Africa to join four others at Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda, where they are helping to reestablish a population that had been extinct since the 1980s. In 2009, Nande became the first white rhino to give birth in Uganda in 27 years; she gave birth to a second calf in 2011.
  • This year, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is supporting projects that protect black and Sumatran rhinos. To find out more, visit www.disney.com/conservation

Read more stories about these celebrations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

A Special Treat: Walt Disney World Wins Sustainability Award for “Making the Switch” to Save Electricity

posted on October 31st, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Saving electricity is no trick—like many efforts to protect our planet, it can be hard work. That makes receiving the Sustainable Florida Best Practice Award in the large business category even more of a special treat.

Yesterday, I had the honor of accepting this award on behalf of the Walt Disney World Resort for our “Make the Switch” electricity conservation program, along with two of my partners in this important work, Mark Todd, Vice President, Engineering Services and Manufacturing, and Dan Cockerell, Vice President, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The award was announced at the “Working on the Green Sustainability Summit” here in Orlando, Florida.

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We are especially proud to receive this award because it is recognition of Disney’s long-standing commitment to the environment, conservation and the natural world. This legacy started with Walt Disney himself and, thanks to our cast members, it has continued to grow. As Disney cast members, each and every one of us has the privilege—and the responsibility—to champion this important part of Walt’s legacy by leading the way in environmental stewardship.

To save electricity, cast members have been doing small things that make a big difference like switching off lights and equipment when not in use. We’ve also been implementing major programs like using energy-efficient lighting in innovative ways, and enhancing energy management and air-conditioning systems throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Our guests are joining us in conserving electricity to help protect our planet by switching off lights, TVs and ceiling fans, and adjusting thermostats when they leave their resort rooms.

Of course, there’s a lot more we want to accomplish! We’re always looking for new ways to conserve resources, including electricity. To find out more about all of our environmental goals, please visit www.disney.com/environment.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’

posted on October 23rd, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Hanging up bat decorations for Halloween is great holiday fun but at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we also want to keep real bats hanging around. Bats play a critical role in nature, helping to control pests and pollinate countless plants, including delicious fruits like bananas and mangoes.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’

On Halloween, we’re celebrating Bat Day with special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch where guests will discover that bats are cool, not creepy. Guests can enter a “bat cave” and test their skills at identifying North American bats. Fun games help guests learn what bats eat and what challenges they face. Guests also can meet our bat keepers and find out how we care for the bats that make their home on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They might even see one of our bats getting its wellness exam in the Veterinary Hospital.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’ Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’

Did you know?

  • The Malayan Flying Fox, which guests can see on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, is one of the largest bats in the world with a wingspan of close to 6 feet. Another bat species at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the Rodrigues fruit bat.
  • Contrary to popular myths, bats are not blind and do not become entangled in human hair.
  • For 2013, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) is supporting Bat Conservation International projects that are helping to protect long-nosed bats in the Caribbean, golden-capped fruit bats in the Philippines and straw-colored bats in Africa. This year, the DWCF also is supporting a Lubee Bat Conservancy project that is helping flying foxes in Madagascar.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Worldwide Conservation Leaders Gather at Walt Disney World Resort to Focus on ‘One Plan’ Approach to Help Wildlife

posted on October 16th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Did you know that the beautiful golden lion tamarin — which guests can see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom — might be extinct in its native Brazil if zoological facilities hadn’t helped? With fewer than 200 left, zoos around the world banded together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins born in their facilities to the wild. These animals joined wild golden lion tamarins to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
A Golden Lion Tamarin, Like the Ones Guests Can See at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Most people think of zoos, aquariums and other wildlife parks as great places to see amazing animals and to connect with nature—and they are. What people may not be aware of is all of the conservation work that these facilities do and what a huge impact they have. This includes, of course, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot.

Over the past week, we’ve been proud to host here at the Walt Disney World Resort conservation leaders from around the world. Some are here as part of their attendance at the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) Annual Meeting. (CBSG is a global network of conservation professionals.) The remainder are here to attend the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Annual Conference. (WAZA members are leading zoos, aquariums and related organizations from around the world.)
Jörg Junhold, Director, Leipzig Zoo, Germany, and Gerald Dick, WAZA Executive Director, with Jackie Ogden

The success of the effort to save golden lion tamarins is a great example of what CBSG and WAZA members refer to as a “One Plan” approach to species conservation, with a goal of one comprehensive conservation plan for wildlife whether they are in human care or in their native habitats.

Did you know?

  • Golden lion tamarins are an endangered species native to Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forest. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has helped support long-term conservation efforts to protect the golden lion tamarin’s forest home.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom also is home to two other tamarin species: emperor tamarins and cotton-top tamarins (visit www.proyectotiti.com to find out more about conservation efforts led by Dr. Anne Savage, Conservation Director at Disney’s Animal Kingdom).
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Elephants Eat Their Fruits and Veggies, and a Whole Lot More! Find out on Elephant Appreciation Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on September 25th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


We know that lots of fruits and veggies are part of a healthy diet. Apparently, elephants know that too. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, an adult male elephant will eat 28 pounds of produce in one day–and that’s not all! He’ll also eat 7 bales of hay, 5 bundles of grass, 2-to-3 bundles of browse, and 15 pounds of grain. And as we try to drink 8 or more glasses of water each day, elephants will guzzle 25-50 gallons of water. It all adds up to about 400-600 pounds of food in a day, which is as much as an average person eats in an entire year.
Elephants Eat Their Fruits and Veggies, and a Whole Lot More!

Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom tomorrow (September 26) will learn lots of fun and informative facts about elephants during our Elephant Appreciation Day celebration, taking place at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

In addition to learning what—and how much—an elephant eats, guests who stop by Rafiki’s Planet Watch can:

  • Test their skills at “eating like an elephant” using a replica of an elephant trunk.
  • Color an elephant mask that they can take home.
  • Learn about the elephants that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and talk with members of our elephant care team.
  • Discover how bee sounds are being used to help keep elephants away from crops.
  • Find out about elephant conservation efforts supported through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund

Elephants Eat Their Fruits and Veggies, and a Whole Lot More!

Did you know?

  • Every day, guests experiencing the Kilimanjaro Safaris and Wild Africa Trek can see members of the Disney’s Animal Kingdom elephant herd.
  • Jabali, who is two years old, is the youngest member of the herd. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is part of a breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that is focused on sustaining the elephant population in North America.
  • Disney scientists study elephant communication—using audio-recording collars. Elephants make powerful, low-frequency “rumbles” that humans often cannot hear and can communicate over distances of several miles using these rumbles. Learn more at the Wildlife Tracking Center at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Disney scientists conduct hormone analyses, using specialized tests called immunoassays, to monitor the reproductive status of the female elephants before and during pregnancy. Guests can watch scientists perform these and other analyses in the Wildlife Tracking Center.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Vultures and Manatees Demystified at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot

posted on September 4th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Vultures and manatees are two creatures that often are misunderstood. That’s one reason why it’s so much fun for us to showcase them with special activities — there’s so much to learn about! For example, take a look at the following:
“Vultures

  • Myth or fact: Vultures can help prevent the spread of rabies. This is a fact — by eating the carcasses of dead animals, vultures help prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases, such as rabies, among animals and humans.

“Manatees

  • Myth or fact: Manatees are closely related to cows (or walruses, or seals). This is a myth — although they are sometimes called sea cows, elephants are one of the manatee’s closest relatives.

Guests can find out all about vultures during special activities in celebration of International Vulture Awareness Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on September 5 and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge on September 7. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, activities will take place near the Tree of Life and at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, activities will take place in the Jambo House lobby. Year-round, guests can see lappet-faced vultures at the Tree of Life, black vultures at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Ruppell’s griffon vultures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends on September 7, special activities are designed to help guests learn about manatees and how to protect them in celebration of International Manatee Day. For example, guests will find out that manatees belong to a group of aquatic, plant-eating mammals called sirenians. They also will learn that actions all of us can take to keep waterways clean, such as recycling plastic bottles and used fishing line, can protect these majestic mammals. Rescued manatees Lou and Vail make their home at The Seas. The marine mammal team said that Lou and Vail will be celebrating International Manatee Day too, by eating fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets.

Among the 2013 projects supported by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund are projects helping protect vultures and manatees. To find out more, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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