Walt Disney at Disneyland Park

Wildlife Wednesdays: Okapi Calf Ventures Out on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Savanna

posted on March 14th, 2012 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


“Mother

Last November, we were proud to announce on Disney Parks Blog the arrival of our female okapi calf, which was born October 1 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Now, the resort’s animal care team reports that the baby has begun venturing out with her mom on the Pembe savanna, which is adjacent to the Kidani Village section of the resort. Gene Duncan captured these photos of the pair roaming the savanna earlier this month. Mom and baby are spending part of the day on the savanna on most days. The team says that the calf is growing like a weed and now weighs 187 pounds!

It’s unusual to see an okapi in a mixed-species savanna habitat, and guests are enjoying this special opportunity to observe, and snap photos of mom, Zoe, and her 5-month-old calf, whom the team named “Makemba” (an African name that means “goddess”). The Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge animal care team and savanna guides are having a great time sharing okapi fun facts with the resort guests: Did you know that the okapi, despite its stripes, is a relative of the giraffe and not the zebra?

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Can You Tell a Zebra By Its Stripes? Give It a Try at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

posted on February 15th, 2012 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Last Friday, Jennifer Fickley-Baker shared the news on Disney Parks Blog about the changes, scheduled to be completed this fall, on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These changes will include creating an additional savannah with natural habitats for animals, including zebras.

Given that, we thought it would be fun and informative to take a look at the kind of zebras that guests can see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Can you tell which kind of zebra is which by its stripes? The answer is yes, but it takes a bit of practice.

Grant’s Zebras at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with the creation of the new habitat, guests will have more of an opportunity to see Grant’s zebras. In the wild, Grant’s zebras can be found on the plains of eastern and southern Africa. This zebra’s stripes are broader than those of other kinds of zebras and extend around the belly and down the legs to the hooves.

Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, guests also can see Grant’s zebras, but, in addition, they have the opportunity to see Hartmann’s mountain zebras. Native to southern Africa, Hartmann’s mountain zebras have black or dark brown stripes with an off-white, creamy color between them. The stripes on this zebra’s sides do not meet on the belly.

More about those stripes: 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.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Animal Sweethearts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom—White-Cheeked Gibbons

posted on February 8th, 2012 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be fun to talk about an animal species where the male and female share a special bond. The vast majority of animal species do not maintain monogamous relationships. Gibbons, including the white-cheeked gibbon, are one of the few species that do. Guests can see white-cheeked gibbons at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Asia near the entrance to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

White-Cheeked Gibbons at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Gibbons live in small monogamous families, consisting of a mated pair with their offspring. They are one of the few apes where the adult female is the dominant animal in the group. 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.

White-Cheeked Gibbon Fun Facts:

  • 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 two to three years after seven to eight 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.
  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: ‘Personal Trainers’ Help Goats and Sheep Stay Fit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on January 4th, 2012 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


At this time of year thoughts inevitably turn to New Year’s resolutions and getting fit often is one of them. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, ensuring that all of our animals stay in great physical condition – through proper nutrition, training, enrichment and regular veterinary exams – is part of our commitment to excellence in animal care.

Animal Keepers at Disney's Animal Kingdom Help Keep Goats and Sheep Fit Through Personal Exercise Programs, Including Agility

You can say our animals at Affection Section in Rafiki’s Planet Watch, including rare domestic breed sheep and goats, have their own personal trainers – our animal keepers – and personal exercise programs, including agility, which has them jumping through hoops and over bars, and navigating through weave poles and tunnels. All of which helps the animals stay fit and mentally stimulated.

It can be even more fun when the animals decide to “do it their way,” as you’ll see in this video clip shot by our animal care team during an agility training session. Enjoy!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Which Giraffe Is Which at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

posted on December 14th, 2011 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


“Two

Guests who look closely when they’re on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will notice that there now are two subspecies of giraffe—reticulated and Masai–roaming the savanna. Can you tell which one is which in this photo by Gene Duncan? The answer is at the bottom of the post.

A couple of hints:

  • The reticulated giraffe’s coat features a pattern of very defined patches that usually are orangish brown. The patches are separated by bright white lines, and the lower part of the legs are a lighter color.
  • The Masai giraffe’s coat features jagged-edged patches. The patches are dark brown on a cream background, making the Masai the darkest-colored subspecies.

Here’s some more information about reticulated and Masai giraffe:

  • Reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) are widely found in northern Kenya and in Somalia. The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) can be found in southern Kenya and throughout Tanzania.
  • The reticulated giraffe is more threatened in the wild, with numbers fewer than 5,000. It is estimated that there are fewer than 40,000 Masai giraffe in the wild. Giraffes are threatened by habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, poaching, and human-wildlife conflicts.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is funding–among its 2011 projects–a project that supports the reintroduction in Kenya of yet another subspecies of giraffe, the endangered Rothschild giraffe.

Answer: The reticulated giraffe is in the forefront of the photo. The others are Masai.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Sable Antelope Calves Join Savanna Herd at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on November 30th, 2011 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Sable Antelope Calves Join Savanna Herd at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

After spending about two months in their backstage habitat bonding with other members of their herd, three sable antelope calves, born this summer at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, have joined the herd on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna. The calves – two males and one female – were cared for in their backstage home because sable moms typically will “tuck” their calves in high grass to protect them from the predators they might encounter in the wild and return to them periodically for feeding. This behavior could prevent our animal care team from being able to monitor the calves properly. The calves are now old enough to be out of the “tucking” phase and are spending the day traveling with the rest of the sable antelope herd, as seen in this photo by Gene Duncan.

At birth, the calves weighed between 35 and 40 pounds. When they reach adulthood, the female will weigh nearly 400 pounds, and the males will be about 50 pounds heavier. In their native habitat in southern Africa, the sable’s natural predator is the lion and other carnivores. Like many African species, sable antelopes compete for living space with humans.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests can see the sables when they ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Another great way to see the sable antelope – and a host of other African wildlife – is by experiencing the Wild Africa Trek, a special adventure that includes a VIP safari and a visit to an exclusive safari camp with fantastic views of the wildlife on the savanna.

Sable antelope fun facts:

  • The sable has a short glossy coat, which ranges in color from a yellow- or reddish-brown to a rich chestnut found in females and their young.
  • When fighting, they go down on their knees, displaying their long curving horns, which measure 20 to 61 inches.
  • They have a high-pitched squeal and produce a horse-like snort when alarmed.
  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Rare Okapi Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

posted on November 2nd, 2011 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


The Female Calf Bonding with Her Mom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge guests may get a glimpse of a rare and unusual baby animal in a month or so when our new okapi calf goes out on the resort’s Pembe savanna. The female calf, born Oct. 1, is backstage bonding with her mom in this great photo taken by Gene Duncan. Our animal care managers report that mom and baby are doing very well.

The Pembe savanna in Kidani Village presents an exceptional opportunity for guests to see okapi in a large, mixed-species savanna habitat right outside the guests’ hotel rooms throughout the day and into the evening.

The okapi is considered rare and is classified as near threatened. The main threat is habitat loss due to logging and human settlement as well as hunting for the bush meat and skin trade.

Okapi fun facts:

  • There are fewer than one hundred okapi in North American zoological facilities.
  • The okapi with its white and black striped legs is often thought to be related to the zebra but actually is the only living relative of the giraffe. The 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, with the calf typically weighing between 50 and 60 pounds at birth.
  • 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.
  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Less is More for Flamingo Chick Hatched at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on October 5th, 2011 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Flamingo Chick Hatched at Disney's Animal Kingdom

You could say that less is more for a flamingo chick hatched at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this past summer. The chick, a member of the lesser flamingo species, is being raised by our park’s greater flamingos, a larger flamingo species. How did a “lesser” wind up with the “greaters”? Here’s the story as told by animal keepers Kris Becker, Shawnlei Breeding and Laura Gruber.

Flamingo Chick Hatched at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated the hatching of a female lesser flamingo on July 16, the first lesser flamingo to be hatched at the park. The egg was laid on June 19 in a habitat near The Tree of Life. While nest building and other reproductive behaviors have been observed over the past eight years within the lesser flamingo flock, this was the first time any eggs had been laid by the group. Due to a variety of factors, a decision was made to remove the egg from the nest and incubate it at our backstage Avian Research Center. Sixteen days later, the egg was placed under a pair of greater flamingos in their habitat on the Kilimanjaro Safaris whose egg had been determined to be nonviable. The greater flamingos were experienced parents who had previously raised chicks successfully.

These foster parents incubated the egg for another 11 days before it hatched. Their original egg was scheduled to hatch on July 3, so they sat an additional 13 days on the new egg. The chick continues to be fostered by the greater flamingo pair in a flock of 21 male and 23 female birds, as well as 7 greater flamingo chicks. Although small in stature, the lesser flamingo chick is big in attitude and fits in well with the rest of the flock.

Lesser flamingo fun facts:

  • Lesser flamingos are found in southern and western Africa. They also can be found in India and Pakistan.
  • Standing about 31 inches tall, the lesser flamingo is a foot or more shorter than the greater flamingo.
  • Population estimates in the wild vary between three and four million birds.
  • The breeding was a recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that is focused on sustaining the lesser flamingo population.



Take a look back at more of Disney Parks’ conservation efforts:

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Zazu’s ‘Cousin’ – Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Chick – a New Addition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

posted on August 17th, 2011 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Chick at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, we recently welcomed our very first Abyssinian ground hornbill chick. Zazu, from The Lion King, is a red-billed hornbill, so you could say that the chick is Zazu’s “cousin.” Steve Metzler, Animal Operations Manager, reports that the chick is doing great and mom is doing a wonderful job protecting and feeding it. The chick weighed 3.6 ounces at 2 days old. Its weight was checked as part of the chick’s neo-natal exam. These “well-baby exams” are performed on our newborn animals by our veterinarians to assess their overall condition. Adult female Abyssinian ground hornbills typically weigh 7-9 pounds and males weigh 12-14 pounds. We won’t know the sex of the new chick for several months.

Hornbills are what are referred to as “altricial” birds, meaning that when they hatch their eyes are closed, they have no down, they are incapable of leaving the nest and they are fed by the parents. Unlike some other bird species, like chickens and ducks, they will be cared for in the nest for several months and will slowly grow feathers and start looking more and more like the adult birds.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

In the wild, Abyssinian ground hornbills live on the African savannas north of the equator and south of the Sahara Desert. They are active during the day, foraging and hunting, and usually roam in pairs or in groups of three or four when young birds are present. These hornbills are mostly carnivorous and walk the savannah using their big bills to capture prey such as snakes and small mammals. They also will eat some fruits and seeds. Abyssinian ground hornbills rarely fly, preferring to walk or run when threatened – although they can and will fly if needed.

The biggest threat to hornbills in the wild is habitat loss. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Abyssinian ground hornbills recommends expanding the current population numbers in accredited facilities to improve the overall genetic health of the population. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is committed to breeding this species to contribute to the overall goals of the SSP. Steve notes that this chick represents a great first step in contributing to our overall knowledge and experience with breeding this species.

The new chick and its mom are bonding in an off-show area, where the animal care team can closely monitor them. Over the next few months, the team hopes to introduce mom and chick back to dad, who is out on the Pembe savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, so all three will be on show together.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Fun Facts:

  • It can take three to four years for young hornbills to get full adult coloration.
  • The ground hornbill has very long eyelashes that not only look attractive but protect its eyes from injury. The eyelashes are modified feathers.
  • The hornbill has a distinctive casque on top of its large bill, which is unique to the hornbill family. The casque is made of keratin that overlies bony support. It is multifunctional: it is used in identifying the age, sex and species of the hornbill; amplifies vocalizations; and helps reinforce the beak.
  • These vocal birds make a series of deep booming calls that announce their presence to other birds.
  • The head is supported by strong neck muscles and strengthened by the fusion of the first two neck vertebrae, unique among birds.
  • In some African villages it is customary to have a resident hornbill; villagers believe the bird brings them good luck. In some parts of their range, hornbills are considered sacred.



For more on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, see the posts below:

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Baby Fennec Foxes Get First Wellness Exam at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Veterinary Hospital

posted on June 22nd, 2011 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Baby Fennec Foxes Get First Wellness Exam at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Veterinary Hospital

Have you had a chance when visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see any of our animals being examined or cared for in our veterinary hospital? Guests visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watch earlier this month were able to witness a momentous occasion – our three baby Fennec foxes’ first check-ups.

Similar to most first wellness exams, the foxes’ exams included getting their eyes and ears checked, their overall condition assessed and receiving their vaccinations. The exams showed that the kits (baby foxes are called kits) are in great health, thanks to excellent care by their parents, and, of course, Disney’s animal care team.

In the wild, Fennec foxes live in the deserts of northern Africa. While they aren’t currently threatened with extinction, they may become so if their population is not closely monitored and protected. A big threat to the foxes is being trapped and sold as pets. One way all of us can help wildlife conservation is to choose our pets wisely, which includes not taking animals from the wild.

The foxes were born April 8 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Lori Bruckheim, one of our zoological managers, reports that the kits are now eating solid foods and are extremely active. They are currently being raised by their parents in a backstage area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom under close observation by the animal care team.

The breeding was a recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that is focused on sustaining the Fennec fox population. For more on Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort