At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the arrival of a baby animal is always cause for celebration, but when the baby is a Hartmann’s mountain zebra, it’s even more rewarding for the animal care team. The population of this rare species of zebra is teetering at just under 50 animals in the U.S., and the Hartmann’s mountain zebra is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species.
The filly was born earlier this month at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Guests are able to see her with her mom roaming the resort’s savanna.
There are three species of zebra, two of which live on the savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can see plains zebras as well as Hartmann’s mountain zebras during your stay.
If you look carefully, you can tell which zebra species is which by their stripes: plains zebras have wider stripes that wrap around their bellies. The Hartmann’s mountain zebras have thinner stripes that do not extend around the belly.
There are many theories concerning the major function of the stripes on a zebra. Most scientists believe that the zebra’s stripes may serve to break up the outline of the zebra’s body in the herd and provide some camouflage when the zebra is standing in tall grass. And no two individual zebras look exactly alike.
Like zebras, many local species of wildlife are threatened by loss of habitat. Creating natural habitats for the wildlife in your own backyard is a great way to help. You can do this by planting native trees, shrubs and flowers, which serve as food sources and nesting sites for the wildlife near you. To learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation
With Father’s Day approaching, our vote at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for father of the year is Kenny, one of our siamangs (a species of ape). Kenny has been raising his twin daughters, Veruca and Violet, since they were a couple of months old and doing a fantastic job under the watchful eyes of our animal care team.
Twins are rare for siamangs. Mom began caring for one of the infants, and our primate team stepped in to help by hand rearing the other one.
Dad Kenny, who had demonstrated great parenting skills in the past, then took on the job of raising first one, then both of his daughters, with our animal keepers continuing to bottle-feed the infants until they moved on to solid foods.
While the twins look very much alike, they have very different personalities. Violet is the more dominant twin and definitely a daddy’s girl. She often wins during wrestling matches with her sister. Veruca is more laid back and does not typically hang out with dad as much.
The twins will be two years old this fall and are doing great. Guests love watching them with their dad in the Asia area of the park as they wrestle with each other, play in the hammocks and try to wake dad from his naps. But don’t let Kenny’s sleepy demeanor fool you—he’s very aware of his surroundings and where the kids are and what they’re up to. Meanwhile, mom, Penny, and older sister, Bahiyah, are in their backstage habitat. Our primate team hopes to get the family back together in their habitat in Asia when the twins get a little older.
The team shot some video of Kenny and the twins at play in their habitat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Enjoy!
Siamang fun facts:
Siamangs are the largest species in the gibbon family. Like all species of apes, siamangs do not have tails.
They usually weigh approximately 20-30 lbs.- males are slightly larger than females. They are about 3 feet in height.
They are great trapeze artists and use their long arms for travel in the rainforest canopy. Siamangs, and other gibbons, are the only true brachiators, which means that they locomote through the trees using only their arms. Siamangs have exceptionally long arms and shortened legs to facilitate this method of movement.
When not brachiating, siamangs generally walk bipedally (on two legs) and raise their arms above their heads for balance. Their feet have opposable big toes capable of holding and carrying objects.
We’ve had some exciting news on the baby front over the past couple of weeks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with a first chick for a pair of Saddle-Billed storks, and a new addition to our White-Cheeked Gibbon family.
Not only is the Saddle-Billed Stork chick a first for these parents, but it is a first for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The pair has been together since 1998, the year Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened, and they have gradually improved the skills needed to be parents, including courtship and nesting.The Saddle-Billed Stork is an exceptionally tall and spectacular-looking stork, with a yellow saddle-shaped shield on its bill that gives the bird its name. Their native habitat is tropical Africa, where they eat mainly fish. Guests can see the nest and chick in the Ituri Forest area of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Guests also are enjoying watching the baby White-Cheeked Gibbon in the Asia near the entrance to the Maharajah Jungle Trek, along with the rest of the gibbon family, which includes mom, dad and the baby’s big sister and big brother. 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. We don’t know the sex yet of the baby gibbon, or of the Saddle-Billed Stork chick. White-Cheeked Gibbons can be found in the canopy of the tropical rainforests of Laos, Vietnam and southern China.
Protecting wildlife and nature:
Many pesticides are harmful to birds and the environment. They can kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones. We can help by choosing and using these chemicals carefully to reduce their impact on wildlife and nature.
Gibbons spend their whole lives in the canopy of the forests. You can help their forest homes by purchasing forest-friendly products.
Check out these posts for more news from Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
Disney photographer Gene Duncan stopped by Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom a few days ago during one of the training sessions for our Asian small-clawed otters that we do in front of our guests. The result: some incredibly cute photos that we wanted to share with you.
As regular Disney Parks Blog readers know, our animal keepers spend a lot of time training our animals—and it’s lots of fun, but it has a serious side too. We do the training so we can take great care of our animals. For example, by teaching the otters to stand on their hind legs, our keepers can get a good view of the body as part of daily visual checks to see whether the animals appear healthy in between regular veterinary exams. In addition, training can help ensure that each animal gets the right amount of food, as offering food is one of the positive conditioning techniques the team uses to train the animals to voluntarily participate in their own care. Training also is used as enrichment to encourage the animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, which is mentally and physically healthy for them, but it enables guests to see the cool adaptations that help the animals survive as well.
The next time you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to spend some time in Discovery Island with the animals that make their home there. In addition to the otters, you may come upon our animal keepers training animals as varied as lemurs, vultures and cotton-top tamarins. And be on the lookout for our education cast members, who share conservation and animal behavior messages about many of the animals—for example, did you know a flamingo eats with its head upside down?
More about Asian small-clawed otters:
Asian small-clawed otters are the least aquatic of the otters. They spend most of their time on land, where they find resting spots such as reed nests, rock caves or burrows.
The otters usually swim by paddling with all four limbs. Only the flat top of the head, nose, ears, eyes and rear part of the body is out of the water. When diving, however, the otter does not use the limbs, but uses powerful lateral wriggling motions and the tail to move through the water—similar to how a fish would swim.
Asian small-clawed otters are vulnerable due to habitat loss. Many wetlands are in decline because of a lack of water. There are many ways that all of us can help by reducing our water usage at home: plant native plants, don’t water the lawn unless needed, and don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we want to share compelling stories with our guests about as many different species as we can to inspire the conservation of wildlife and nature, so we’re especially excited when we can introduce a new animal species to the park. Now Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests have the opportunity to see springbok, a very interesting species of antelope, when they experience the Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Wild Africa Trek.
We’ve just begun the introduction of the springbok—six adult females and one five-month-old male calf—to our African savanna and thanks to vigilant attention from our animal care team, the springbok are adapting very well to their new habitat. The springbok join more than 300 other animals on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Other kinds of antelope that guests might spot include the addax, bontebok, bongo, eland, greater kudu, sable antelope, scimitar-horned oryx and white-bearded wildebeest. These are joined by many other animals that are favorites of our guests, including the African elephant, African lion, black and white rhinoceros, giraffe, nile crocodile, ostrich, hippopotamus and zebra.
Did you know?
The name “springbok” is Afrikaans and Dutch (“spring” means “jump,” and “bok” means “antelope” or “goat”).
Springbok, which are found in southern Africa, are approximately 2.4 – 2.9 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 70 – 100 lbs.
Male springbok are larger than females, and, although both males and females have horns, the males’ horns are thicker and longer.
Springbok can get the water they need from the food they eat, and they can survive without drinking water through the dry season, or even for years.
The springbok has a fold of skin that extends along the middle of its back to its tail and is lighter in color than the rest of its back. When the springbok is frightened by possible predators, the fold opens up and lifts so the lighter hair is displayed almost like a crest along the back.
The springbok displays a behavior called “pronking.” Pronking includes springing up repeatedly with legs stiff and close together, hooves bunched together, and back arched to show off the crest. While the exact cause of this behavior is unknown, springbok exhibit this activity when they are excited.
Springbok, as with all animals, rely heavily on their habitat for survival. Habitat destruction and over hunting threaten the species in the wild. You can help their populations from declining by supporting the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund www.disney.com/conservation and other conservation organizations that are working to protect African wildlife.
Guests are having lots of fun snapping their own photos of the zebras, which in the wild live in eastern and southern Africa. And our animal care team is continuing to keep a close eye on the various members of the herd as they acclimate to their new habitat. The team reports that they are doing great.
A year ago today, we welcomed our newest elephant calf Jabali to the Disney’s Animal Kingdom family. Jabali has been out on the park’s African savanna since he was only two weeks old. Since that time, guests have enjoyed seeing him and the rest of the elephant herd when they ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris or experience the Wild Africa Trek.
Jabali, who weighed 311 pounds at birth, now weighs 1,090 pounds but even at that weight he looks small when in the midst of the adult elephants and older youngsters in the herd. Our elephant team reports that Jabali spends a good bit of his time with two-year-old elephant calf Luna and the other young elephants in the herd. They said he’ll often be found playing in the mud wallow on the savanna, and even venturing into the ponds with the other elephants.
Jabali is the sixth elephant born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Others include:
The cast at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is delighted that we get to introduce our guests to so many rare and fascinating animals. One of those is the okapi, an animal that, because of its stripes, is often thought to be related to the zebra but, actually, is the only living relative of the giraffe.
We are very happy to announce that late last week — on June 21 — we welcomed a new okapi calf to the Disney’s Animal Kingdom family. Our teams usually take some time deciding on names for new arrivals, but they quickly chose the African name “Nafuna” for the female calf—it means “delivered feet first.”
First-time mom, Zawadi, and the calf, who weighed 35 pounds at birth, are doing very well (the baby already had her first wellness exam) and are being monitored closely by the animal care team in their backstage home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The calf’s dad, Akili, lives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, where guests also can see okapi on the resort’s savanna.
In the wild, the okapi is considered rare, and they are threatened by habitat loss due to logging and human settlement, as well as by hunting.
Okapi fun facts:
The okapi’s stripes work as camouflage when hiding in the partial sunlight that filters through the forest canopy.
Okapi are typically solitary animals, living alone or in mother-offspring pairs. They are extremely wary and secretive, making okapi very difficult to observe in the lowland rainforest of central Africa where they make their home.
The okapi’s gestation period is about 14 months.
Adult okapi can reach weights of 550-720 pounds, with females typically being larger than males. They can live over 30 years in zoological facilities.
Normally silent, female okapi vocalize with a soft “chuff” during courtship and when calling to their calves. There are infrasonic qualities to their call, which are below the frequency that the human ear can pick up.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series:
We are very pleased to announce that a white rhino calf, a boy (no name yet—the team is still deciding), was born May 4 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney photographer Gene Duncan stopped by to take some photos, and we’re happy to share them with you.
This birth was the fourth for mom, Kendi, a 13-year-old white rhino, who was the first rhino born at the park. A rhino birth is a significant event because at one time the species was nearly extinct. As a result of conservation efforts and careful management, the species has grown to number approximately 20,150 worldwide, with 215 residing in North American zoological parks.
The success of our white rhino breeding program 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 last year.
Our new calf currently is bonding with mom in their backstage home and will join the other rhinos on the savanna of the Kilimanjaro Safaris in the coming weeks.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the Disney Foundation have provided more than $1 million in support to programs in Africa and Asia to protect the last five remaining species of rhino.
Last month, we welcomed five baby warthogs, three males and two females, to the Disney’s Animal Kingdom family. A few days ago, Gene Duncan stopped by to take some photos and we couldn’t resist sharing this photo of one piglets with a Pumbaa plush. Toys are among the items provided to the animals for enrichment as part of our commitment to excellence in animal care.
The piglets, which are still backstage, weighed 1 ½ to just over 2 pounds at birth. Adult females weigh 110-165 pounds and adult males are larger, ranging from 130-330 pounds. We expect the piglets to be out on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna with their mom by late April.
With the new additions, we now have four male and three female warthogs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In the wild, warthogs are designated as vulnerable due to habitat destruction and being hunted for meat.
Warthog Fun Facts:
Although the upper tusks are more impressive, it is the sharper lower tusks that are the warthog’s principal weapons.
Warts, which are prominent only on males, are skin growths and have no bony support. The warts are located on the side of the head and in front of the eyes. They serve to cushion blows sustained during battles over females.
Warthogs usually take over the abandoned burrows of other animals instead of making their own dens.
In the wild, warthogs’ habitat is widespread—they live in all African countries south of the Sahara Desert.
For more on the wildlife at Walt Disney World Resort, take a look at the posts below: