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Wildlife Wednesdays: Purple Martins, Migratory Songbirds, Are Walt Disney World Resort Guests Each Year

posted on May 1st, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Guests love visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, and a variety of wildlife does too! For several years now, a fascinating species of songbird, the purple martin, has been spending a few months a year here.
“Purple

The largest member of the swallow family, purple martins eat only flying insects — including pesky flies, flying ants and Japanese beetles, but not, as often rumored, mosquitoes. Purple martins are highly social and prefer to nest in large colonies. Thanks to a conservation program led by Disney’s Animal Programs zoological manager James Mejeur, the birds have been nesting in large birdhouses with multiple “rooms” in both on-stage and backstage areas at the Walt Disney World Resort, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and our golf courses.

This year, James has been working with the Purple Martin Conservation Association to find out more about where the birds that nest at the Walt Disney World Resort spend the rest of the year by placing tiny geolocators on some of the purple martins. The geolocators will gather daily information on the location of the birds as they migrate. Next spring, when the birds return to the Walt Disney World Resort, we’ll remove the geolocators and uncover many of the secrets of their migration patterns. Take a look at the video to find out more.
“Purple

The purple martin program is one of many that are part of the Disney’s Animal Programs native wildlife program. Our team monitors animals as varied as 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 can find out more about purple martins — and many other migratory birds — during their visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 8, when we’ll be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day with a special event. We’re inviting our guests to be “honorary birds” for the day. Here are some highlights:

  • Main Entrance (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.): Guests receive their bird band and a bookmark with the locations of the other “banding” sta­tions in the park.
  • Oasis (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.): What is your feather color?: Guests can have their plumage (clothing) recorded.
  • Tree of Life (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): How far did you migrate? Guests will measure their migration distance and see how they compare to other migratory birds.
  • Asia (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): What is your wing span?: Guests will have their arm length measured and recorded.
  • Africa (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): What is your height?: Guests will have their height measured and recorded.
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.): Guests can participate in a variety of special activities, including learning more about Operation Migration, which has been helping rare whooping cranes migrate for more than 10 years. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported Operation Migration since its inception.

James fell in love with purple martins during childhood visits to his grandmother’s house. Do you have special memories of purple martins or other songbirds? Let us know in the comments.

Upcoming 2013 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • May 23: World Turtle Day
  • June 5: Pollinator Day
  • July 25: Tiger Day
  • August 1: Primate Day
  • August: Cotton-Top Tamarin Month
  • September 5: International Vulture Awareness Day
  • September 26: Elephant Day
  • October 31: Bat Day
  • November 12: Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • May 18: Endangered Species Day
  • May 23: World Turtle Day
  • June 8: World Ocean Day
  • September 7: International Manatee Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Party for the Planet to Celebrate 15th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Earth Day on April 22

posted on April 17th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Wildlife Wednesdays: Party for the Planet to Celebrate 15th Anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom and Earth Day on April 22
As a proud member of the Disney’s Animal Kingdom opening team, I can say with assurance that 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 April 22 (Earth Day), in recognition of the park’s 15th anniversary, there will be even more natural magic. Here are some tips for all of you who are able to come:

  • Get there by 8:30 a.m.! While the park and its attractions don’t open until 9 a.m., the turnstiles will open at 8:30 a.m., and I am proud to be joining Disney’s Animal Kingdom Vice President Josh D’Amaro who is hosting a special 15th anniversary ceremony that will take place in front of the Tree of Life at 8:40 a.m.
  • Commemorative guide map: Be sure to pick one up when you enter the park. And while in the Main Entrance area, also pick up a keepsake postcard that serves as a Party for the Planet guide.
  • Special conservation button: Starting April 22 and for a limited time (until quantities run out), those who give to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will receive a commemorative 15th anniversary DWCF button.
  • Party for the Planet activities: In Africa, children will learn how to identify animals by observing tracks and other clues. In Asia, families will find out how choosing “green” products can make a big difference for wildlife and nature. At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, families will discover fun ways to spend time in nature and participate in activities inspired by the Disneynature films “African Cats,” “Chimpanzee,” and “Wings of Life.” Guests also can talk with cast members who work on conservation projects around the world.
  • Guest artists and special merchandise: Speak with specialists from Elemental Nursery and Just Plumerias, who will be on hand to feature their beautiful plants and topiaries, along with special guest appearances. There will be face painting with a variety of animal images and the opportunity to pose for a fun portrait, plus special 15th anniversary merchandise (quantities limited). Find out more here:
  • Speciality snacks: A party wouldn’t be a party without snacks–enjoy an Earth Day cupcake.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Party for the Planet to Celebrate 15th Anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom and Earth Day on April 22

Looking for more Earth Day fun during your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort? On April 22 at Epcot, which is celebrating the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, special Earth Day activities are taking place at The Seas with Nemo & Friends and Vision House in Innoventions, and be on the lookout for Earth Day activities at our resorts and Downtown Disney.

Upcoming 2013 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • May 8: International Migratory Bird Day
  • May 23: World Turtle Day
  • June 5: Pollinator Day
  • July 25: Tiger Day
  • August 1: Primate Day
  • August: Cotton-Top Tamarin Month
  • September 5: International Vulture Awareness Day
  • September 26: Elephant Day
  • October 31: Bat Day
  • November 12: Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • May 18: Endangered Species Day
  • May 23: World Turtle Day
  • June 8: World Ocean Day
  • September 7: International Manatee Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Rescued Sea Turtles, Cared for at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, Return to the Sea

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


Earlier this year, we shared on the Disney Parks Blog the story of eight sea turtles, rescued from New England beaches during a cold spell and suffering from hypothermia. Well, I’m thrilled to report that last week, after receiving care at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, four of the turtles were returned to their home in the sea, with the other four expected to follow soon.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Rescued Sea Turtles, Cared for at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Return to the Sea Wildlife Wednesdays: Rescued Sea Turtles, Cared for at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Return to the Sea

 
Disney and other rehabilitation centers came to the aid of the New England Aquarium, whose sea turtle hospital had reached capacity. Our animal care team took in eight Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, one of the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world. The team focused on increasing the turtles’ body weight so they could regain their strength to swim in the open ocean.

Under direction from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the turtles were released back to the ocean at the Canaveral National Seashore here in Florida. We hope you’ll enjoy the video of the turtles heading back to the sea!

 
In addition to rehabilitating sea turtles, Disney is helping through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, which has directed more than $1.1 million to sea turtle conservation efforts.


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Wildlife Wednesdays: Spring Forward to Help Frogs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 27th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


At Disney’s Animal Kingdom on March 7, 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 during one of a year-long series of events that encourage families to connect with nature.
Guests Celebrate Frogs, Toads and Other Amphibians at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

When guests visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch, they 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, examine amphibian adaptations, and meet some cool amphibians and their keepers. Frog fun fact: Frogs provide a free pest-control service – they eat billions of harmful insects annually, including mosquitoes and their larvae.

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.
Guests Celebrate Frogs, Toads and Other Amphibians at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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? The good news is that every one of us can help amphibians leap ahead of extinction. Here’s how:

  • Invite a bug-zapping amphibian into your backyard by placing an overturned pot (toad abode) as a home
  • 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
  • Plan a family outing to a local pond to hear different species of frogs sing their love songs to one another
  • Find natural alternatives to household chemicals so these toxins don’t end up in amphibian habitats
  • Take part in a local pond or stream clean-up to ensure that native amphibians will have a clean home
  • Find books on frogs to discover why they sing loudly, hear well and stay up late

Guests Celebrate Frogs, Toads and Other Amphibians at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Upcoming 2013 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 8: International Migratory Bird Day
  • May 23: World Turtle Day
  • June 5: Pollinator Day
  • July 25: Tiger Day
  • August 1: Primate Day
  • August: Cotton-Top Tamarin Month
  • September 5: International Vulture Awareness Day
  • September 26: Elephant Day
  • October 31: Bat Day
  • November 12: Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • April 22: Earth Day
  • May 18: Endangered Species Day
  • May 23: World Turtle Day
  • June 8: World Ocean Day
  • September 7: International Manatee Day

 
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Sea Turtles Ill from the Cold Recovering at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot

posted on January 2nd, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Sea turtles suffering from hypothermia were rescued from New England beaches and are recovering at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot.
Veterinarians Examine Recovering Sea Turtles at the Animal Hospital at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Eight Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, one of the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world, arrived via airplane the weekend before Christmas and were picked up by Disney’s Animal Programs team members. The turtles were examined on Christmas Eve by our veterinarians in view of guests at the animal hospital at Disney’s Animal Kingdom before being transported by our animal care experts to a rehabilitation facility backstage at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Medical exams included X-rays and blood tests, as well as complete physical assessments.

Disney and other rehabilitation centers came to the aid of the New England Aquarium, the first stop for these sea turtles. The aquarium was very grateful for the assistance – their sea turtle hospital had reached capacity and more turtles ill from the cold were arriving every day with months of winter to come. In addition to caring for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, Disney’s Animal Programs cast members are providing support by transporting loggerhead sea turtles impacted by the cold temperatures in New England from Florida airports to other rehabilitation centers on the state’s west coast.
Veterinarians Examine Recovering Sea Turtles at the Animal Hospital at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The team reports that the sea turtles at The Seas with Nemo & Friends are eating well and recovering nicely. Our animal care experts are focused on increasing the turtles’ body weight so they have the strength to swim in the open ocean. The goal is to help the turtles get healthy and then release them back to ocean, under direction from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Did you know?

  • Sea turtles are ectotherms (often referred to as “cold-blooded”), which means that their body temperature depends mostly on external sources, such as water temperature. As a result, frigid waters slow their metabolism, which may lead to life-threatening comas.
  • Since 1986, Disney’s Animal Programs teams have nursed more than 300 endangered sea turtles back to health and returned them to their home in the sea.
  • Since its inception, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has directed more than $1.1 million to sea turtle conservation efforts.
  • Disney’s Animal Programs often is called upon to help distressed animals. Disney animal care experts help to support the rescue and rehabilitation of hundreds of injured and orphaned animals every year.



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Wildlife Wednesdays: Get a Glimpse of New Rafiki’s Planet Watch Film – Showing Now at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on December 26th, 2012 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Endangered Baby Sea Turtles- Featured on the New Rafiki's Planet Watch Film

Throughout the year, we’re very proud to share on the Disney Parks Blog stories about our conservation efforts and how we’re connecting families with animals and nature. Some of these stories are now featured in a new film that Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests can see when they visit Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

The film, which is hosted by Disney’s Animal Programs Conservation Director Dr. Anne Savage, has four segments. The segment shown here focuses on conservation projects to protect coral reefs in The Bahamas (in partnership with Disney Cruise Line) and two endangered species: Puerto Rican crested toads and sea turtles.
The next time you visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch, be sure to stop by and view some of the other segments, which feature animals that live on the land and those that make their home in the sea, including gorillas, elephants, manatees, cotton-top tamarins and tigers. Here’s to a new year filled with nature’s magic!

Conservation Efforts to Protect Coral Reefs in The Bahamas, In Partnership with Disney Cruise Line Puerto Rican Crested Toads- Featured on the New Rafiki's Planet Watch Film
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Batty about Bats on Halloween and Every Day

posted on October 24th, 2012 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Think bats are scary? The scariest thing about bats is not having them around. Do you like bananas, cashews, cotton t-shirts, pickles or peaches? If so, you can thank a bat. From pest control to pollination, bats worldwide are important to people and nature.

Bats at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom can get to know bats better during a celebration on Halloween (what better day to celebrate bats?) devoted exclusively to this special-not-spooky species.

At Conservation Station, guests can discover what bats like to eat and where they live. By participating in a variety of games and activities, they can learn cool bat facts and what all of us can do to be sure that bats “hang around.” Guests also can meet our bat keepers and find out how we care for the bats (Malayan Flying Foxes and Rodrigues fruit bats) that make their home on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Guests Can Meet the Bat Keepers at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Did you know?

  • Contrary to popular misconceptions, bats are not blind and do not become entangled in human hair.
  • As the only mammal capable of true flight, the more than 1,200 species of bats range in size from the world’s smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny, to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans.
  • Many bat species consume vast quantities of insects, including the most damaging agricultural pests. For example, a single little brown bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour.
  • Loss of bats increases demand for chemical pesticides. As insect-eating machines, bats save farmers billions of dollars annually.
  • From deserts to rainforests, nectar-feeding bats are critical pollinators for a wide variety of plants of great economic and ecological value.
  • For 20l2, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is supporting a Bat Conservation International project that is protecting an estimated eight million straw-colored fruit bats in Africa during their seasonal migration.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Do Elephants Drink Through Their Trunks? This and Other Questions Answered on Elephant Awareness Day, September 26, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on September 19th, 2012 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


A myth that pops up from time to time is that elephants use their trunks to drink, like we would use a straw. This would be similar to people sticking their noses in a glass of water when they wanted a drink! Elephants, unlike people, do use their trunks to help them drink, but they only suck the water part of the way up and then use their trunks to squirt the water into their mouths.

In Addition to Sucking Up Water to Squirt in Their Mouths and Picking Up Food, Elephants’ Trunks Are Used For Greeting, Caressing, Threatening and Throwing Dust Over Their Body

The elephant’s trunk is a combination of their nose and upper lip and is able to touch, grasp and smell. In addition to sucking up water to squirt in their mouths and picking up food, elephants’ trunks are used for greeting, caressing, threatening and throwing dust over their bodies.

On September 26, Elephant Awareness Day, Guests Can Test Their Skills at Eating Like an Elephant Using a Replica of an Elephant Trunk

Guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom on September 26, Elephant Awareness Day, will learn lots of fun facts about elephants—and can even test their skills at eating like an elephant using a replica of an elephant trunk.

On Elephant Awareness Day, Guests Who Stop By Rafiki’s Planet Watch Can Color an Elephant Mask That They Can Take Home

On Elephant Awareness Day, guests who stop by Rafiki’s Planet Watch can:

  • Learn what—and how much!—an elephant eats.
  • Color an elephant mask that they can take home.
  • Learn about the elephants that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including baby elephant Jabali who just celebrated his first birthday, and talk with members of our elephant care team.
  • Find out about our elephant conservation efforts in Africa, supported through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and cast member conservation programs, including how bee sounds are being used to help keep elephants away from crops.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Manatees (Our Not-So-Little Mermaids) Celebrated at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot

posted on September 5th, 2012 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


History tells us that ancient sailors – and maybe even Christopher Columbus – mistook manatees for mermaids. Guests visiting The Seas with Nemo & Friends on September 7 will be able to learn about these not-so-little mermaids during an International Manatee Day celebration.

Guests Can Learn About Manatees at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot During International Manatee Day

Special activities are designed to help guests discover the reality behind the myths and how they can help protect manatees.

Did you know?

  • Manatees belong to a group of aquatic, plant-eating mammals called sirenians.
  • Their teeth are constantly being worn down by the abrasive plants they eat, but manatees grow replacement teeth throughout their lifetime.
  • Manatees can only be found in a few places around the world, including Florida, South America, Africa, and Australia.
  • Actions all of us can take to keep waterways clean, such as recycling used fishing line and plastic bottles, can protect these majestic mammals.
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees (and sea turtles too) until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats The Seas participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other facilities and conservation groups, in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.
  • Rescued manatees Lou and Vail make their home at The Seas.

Rescued Manatees Lou and Vail Make Their Home at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot

Upcoming 2012 wildlife conservation events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (as always, dates subject to change):

  • September 26: Elephant Awareness Day
  • October 31: Bat Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Why Don’t Vultures Get Stomach Aches? Find Out All About These Often-Misunderstood Birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

posted on August 29th, 2012 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


“Learn

Vultures eat the carcasses of dead animals, helping prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases such as rabies and anthrax among animals and humans. So why don’t they get a stomach ache? Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (on September 1) and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (on September 5) will find out the answer to this and many other questions about these often-misunderstood birds during International Vulture Awareness Day celebrations.

“Learn

Okay, so why don’t they get a stomach ache, or worse? Vultures are equipped with a digestive system that contains special acids that will dissolve many kinds of usually deadly bacteria. These acids also help them to digest the decaying meat and bones that make up their diet.

As strong as vultures’ stomachs are, they face challenges ranging from loss of habitat and food sources, to direct and indirect poisoning of food carcasses, to electrocution on power lines.

“Learn

Guests can learn about vultures and conservation efforts to help these birds:

  • At an activity area at the Tree of Life
  • By participating in a variety of activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

“Learn

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can try on a replica of vulture wings, create an arts-and-crafts vulture or vulture mask, learn about vulture digestion and take part in a vulture meet-and-greet, among other activities. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, activities include viewing vulture feedings, vulture mask coloring and the opportunity to examine vulture biofacts.

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.

International Vulture Awareness Day originated in South Africa in 2006 to raise awareness of the plight of vultures in that region. The event has expanded around the world, focusing on issues and conservation programs that are affecting these birds. Awareness and knowledge are the first steps in appreciating vultures, which are helping keep the earth cleaner and disease free. People also can support conservation efforts that are helping vultures. To learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Upcoming 2012 wildlife conservation events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (as always, dates subject to change):

  • September 26: Elephant Awareness Day
  • October 31: Bat Day

And at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, celebrate International Manatee Day on September 7.

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