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Na’vi River Journey adds music, energy to Pandora – The World of AVATAR

posted on November 6th, 2015 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

We have some updates on the expansion of Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Back in August, at the 2015 D23 Expo, we were excited to unveil the name of the new AVATAR-themed land and one of its attractions. Now we have more news coming out of D23 Expo Japan, where Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, shared more about the expansion.

Pandora – The World of AVATAR will bring a variety of new experiences to the Park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey. The adventure begins as guests set out in canoes and venture down a mysterious, sacred river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest. The full beauty of Pandora reveals itself as the canoes pass by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures. The journey culminates in an encounter with a Na’vi shaman, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music.

Na’vi River Journey will open with Pandora – The World of AVATAR in 2017. Keep watching Disney Parks Blog for more information as the land and its attractions come to life.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Enjoy Enrichment

posted on November 4th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

If you were lucky enough to be visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge last week, you may have seen some of the zebras, giraffes and ankole cattle enjoying some themed enrichment on the savanna just as the sun was setting.

Enrichment is stimulating and fun for the animals, and it’s an important part of their care. It allows them to make choices about their environment and encourages natural behaviors. Watch just a few examples of enrichment in this video taken at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Halloween Tales from Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on October 28th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

Halloween is only a few days away, and I want to share some fun Halloween tales (and tails!) with you from Disney’s Animal Kingdom about the Malayan flying foxes, Okapis and Baobab trees.

True or False: Bats will suck your blood.

False! Malayan flying foxes, the fruit bats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will not suck your blood. Flying foxes enjoy fruits and vegetables, and the ones at Disney’s Animal Kingdom love watermelon, papaya and figs. Since flying foxes love these foods, they play a very important role as seed distributers in the wild. They’ll chew their food and spit out remaining seeds as they fly. This helps the eco-system by sometimes introducing plants to new locations.


Bats also have a bad reputation for being blind, or having bad eyesight. This couldn’t be more wrong! Although some bats use echolocation, flying foxes don’t. Their eyesight is almost three times better than humans, and they can see in color.


Originally from Southeast Asia, flying foxes face habitat destruction, hunting and are susceptible to extreme heat. They don’t have sweat glands, which means they need moisture, or water, to help cool themselves down.

True or False: Okapis are the ghosts of the forest.

True! Okapis are originally from the Congo and weren’t discovered until the 1900s. This is probably because they live solitary lives in very dense forests, and hence the ghost name. Living in the forest has also allowed okapis to develop amazing hearing that they rely on to listen for predators or movement.


Most people assume that okapis are related to zebras because of the pattern on their behind, but they are actually the only relative of giraffe. This disruptive coloring evolved to mimic light coming through trees to better camouflage okapi from predators in the wild.


Okapis are considered endangered because of its rapid population decline over the past two decades. They are hunted as bushmeat, face habitat loss and are ensnared in traps meant for other animals.

True or False: Baobab trees are dead, spooky and probably haunted.

False! Although the trees look like they are upside down, and possibly dead, they are very much alive. Baobab trees help support eco-systems by acting as a home and food for animals and food for humans. Baobabs can provide shelter for animals like snakes, bats and bees to name a few.


Baobab trees have the ability to store large volumes of water, which is especially helpful during drought seasons. However, animals like elephants and eland often chew on the tree bark to hydrate. Unfortunately, this ultimately harms the trees.

Both animals and humans like to eat the Baobab fruit and seedpods. The fruit has twice as much calcium as milk, is high in anti-oxidants, iron and potassium, and has six times the vitamin C of an orange. The seeds also produce edible oil. In some parts of Africa, the baobab is called the “tree of life.” Sound familiar? The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is, in fact, a baobab tree.


Baobabs suffer from being waterlogged, drought, black fungus and, as already mentioned, animals eating the bark. These as well as habitat invasion, hurt the baobabs and have motivated researchers to start studying the livelihood of the species.

Happy Halloween from everyone at Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment! What other animal tales have you heard? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Water Buffalo are a New Species at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on October 21st, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

We are proud to announce that three water buffalo have been introduced to the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rose, Dorothy and Blanche are enjoying the comfort of the grassy fields and brush, which they share with the blackbuck, Eld’s deer, Sarus cranes, ruddy shelducks and bar-headed geese. One of our cast members came up with the names for the trio, and they seem to fit pretty well so far.

The three girls have developed into a close-knit group and like to follow each other everywhere they go. Guests might see them laying in a triangle with their backs to each other as they get used to their new home. This sitting position allows all three of them to be watching each side of the group while they continue to get acclimated to the space. This is a behavior that a lot of hoofed animals will use in the wild to keep an eye out for predators.


Cast members working with the water buffalo are excited for the new species. Keeper Amy Burgess has worked with many different animals in her career, and even a few species of cattle. However, she’s never worked with water buffalo before a few months ago.

“It’s always exciting to work with something new and different,” Amy said.

To benefit this species, we made some changes to the exhibit specifically for them. The area where the water buffalo spend their time now includes a pool because water buffalo have fewer sweat glands than other species. They need to have access to be able to – at least occasionally – either sit or wallow in the water.


Domestic and wild water buffalo prefer habitats of grasslands, forests and rivers. Especially during dry seasons, water buffalo will often retreat to water to stay comfortable.

One of the greatest threats to water buffalo in the wild is a loss of habitat. This, pressure from over-hunting and interbreeding between wild and domestic buffalo has resulted in an almost 50 percent decrease in population during the past 10 years. That makes it even more important that we’re able to share these wonderful animals with our Guests. Anyone can make a donation to the Disney Conservation Fund at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort.


At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, cast members continue to bond with Rose, Dorothy and Blanche. It’s been helpful to have a number of keepers working with the water buffalo so that we can give the best care to our animals.

“That’s one of things I like about [working] here,” Amy said. “We have people from different zoos and people that have worked on different teams here, and they’ll give suggestions from what they did working somewhere else, or with a different animal … we have a lot of strengths to draw from.”

Visit to learn more about some of the other animals you can find at Walt Disney World Resort.


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Top 10 Vegetarian Meals at Walt Disney World Resort to Celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month

posted on October 14th, 2015 by Rachel Bshero, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, and to celebrate we’ve picked the top five quick-service and top five table-service vegetarian meals served at Walt Disney World Resort restaurants. These meals make veggies the star of the plate and are tasty enough to win over carnivores, too.

Top 5 Quick-Service Vegetarian Meals


1. Watermelon Salad, Flame Tree Barbecue, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
A light and refreshing meal, this watermelon salad is topped with feta, arugula, pickled red onion and white balsamic vinaigrette.

2. Lighthouse Sandwich, Columbia Harbor House, Magic Kingdom Park
Drop anchor at Columbia Harbor House for this satisfying sandwich with hummus, tomato and broccoli slaw on toasted multigrain bread with house-made potato chips.


3. Grilled Vegetable Sandwich, Backlot Express, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Take five with this grilled vegetable sandwich with fresh mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini, tomato and watercress piled high on basil asiago artisan bread, topped with cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto. Choose from carrot sticks or fries on the side.


4. Veggie Naan-wich, Electric Umbrella, Epcot
Broccoli slaw, edamame and tofu wasabi dressing on naan make this a Future World dish that’s not to be missed. As a side, choose between grapes or fries.


5. Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, Rosie’s All-American Café, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Fried green tomatoes, arugula, pepper jack cheese and jalapeño ranch dressing on ciabatta bread served with coleslaw or fries.

Top 5 Table-Service Vegetarian Meals


1. Layered Ratatouille, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom Park
Oven-baked zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes and caramelized onions are sliced and layered on quinoa, topped with a bell pepper sauce. It’s delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.

2. Noodle Bowl, Hollywood Brown Derby, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Try wok-fried coconut tofu, soy beans, sugar snap peas, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms in a red curry broth at the place to “see and be seen” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


3. Farmer Lee’s Tomato Salad, California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Perfectly ripe toy box heirloom tomatoes, tomato chips, jam, Mozzarella di Bufala, topped with charred onion vinaigrette. Pair this salad with a wood-fired flatbread or the famous Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli.

4. Vegetarian Falafel, Beaches & Cream Soda Shop, Disney’s Beach Club Resort
This falafel is served on flatbread with black olive hummus, cucumber, tomato and lettuce, and topped with a soy tzatziki-style sauce. On the side are house-made pickles and your choice of fruit or fries. Special tip: Look for a brand-new, house-made quinoa burger to hit the menu later this month.

5. Vegetable and Tofu Sambusas, Jiko – The Cooking Place, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
These tasty sambusas are served with mint-coconut chutney, coriander-tamarind yogurt and saffron-cashew rice.

What’s your favorite vegetarian meal at Walt Disney World Resort? Let us know in the comments below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Team Effort Saves Taveta Golden Weaver

posted on October 14th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

Each week we share stories about the newest baby animals, updated conservation stories and new species being introduced to our animal areas around Walt Disney World Resort. This week, I want to tell you about the remarkable effort that saved one of our Taveta golden weavers, a bird native to Kenya and Tanzania.


Late one evening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a Taveta golden weaver chick was attempting to fly when it was injured by a Hamerkop bird inside the aviary along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. The young chick was in critical condition when a keeper brought the bird to the vet hospital at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The attack caused damage to the trachea, and the chick, who weighed only 15 grams, appeared to have a difficult time breathing.

“His trachea had basically started closing in on itself from all the inflammation so he couldn’t breathe,” said Veterinarian Dr. Natalie Mylniczenko. “The advantage of birds is that they also have air sacs in their body which help with flight, but are also an integral part of their respiratory system.”

Dr. Natalie and a team of keepers and veterinarians knew they had to think fast to save the chick’s life. They thought of a minor procedure, usually performed on larger birds, that allows them to put a tube into a bird’s air sac so that the bird can breathe through the tube until the trachea is healed.

“We had to basically create a tube, so we took an IV catheter for a larger animal, snipped it, smoothed it, popped it in and sewed it in,” Dr. Natalie said. “Remarkably, it worked really, really well, and then we gave him medicine and supportive care. By the next day, his trachea had completely gone back to normal [so that] we were able to take the tube out. It was a really quick turn-around.”

This is just one of the great examples of how our cast members work to take care of our animals every day. We can also use success stories like this to share knowledge with other animal-care facilities for future reference and use.

“A week or two later, the keepers said, ‘We can’t even tell which bird he is anymore!’ I had a lot of amazing technicians around me to keep the bird alive while we were trying to pull together what to do. It was just remarkable,” Dr. Natalie said.

Visit to learn about some of the animals you can find at Walt Disney World Resort.

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No Tricks, Just Halloween Treats at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot

posted on October 13th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer

We’ve talked about all the Halloween treats in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort, so here’s the rundown of all the seasonal goodies you’ll find in the other three theme parks.


At Epcot, head to Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in the Norway pavilion for a Spooky Olaf – a brownie shaped like a ghost covered with white fondant and Olaf’s face. Over in Future World at Fountain View, you’ll find a chocolate owl cupcake filled with chocolate marshmallow and sandwich cookie eyes, and at Sunshine Seasons, a candy corn push pop that’s orange, lemon or mango with layers of vanilla mousse. You’ll find all of these tasty treats the week of Halloween.


From October 4-November 1 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find a carrot cake with a pumpkin Mickey topper at The Trolley Car Café, ABC Commissary, Pizza Planet, Backlot Express and Starring Rolls Café. From November 2-November 30 in the same locations, there’s a Holiday Harvest Pumpkin Cupcake with a Mickey topper. Both count as a snack on the Disney Dining Plan.


At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, on October 31 you can enjoy at Bat Cupcake at Kusafiri Bakery and Isle of Java. Then on November 26, a fall cupcake debuts at the same locations. Both count as a snack on the Disney Dining Plan. And Tusker House Restaurant will showcase mini-pumpkin muffins and pumpkin cheesecake on the buffet.

Indulge a little, ‘tis the season!

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New ALEX AND ANI Wraps Debut for Fall at Disney Parks

posted on October 9th, 2015 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort

Fall fashion is one thing I love, especially when it comes in the form of ALEX AND ANI! If you’re curious as to what releases we have lined up this October at Disney Parks, wait no more! Here are all the details and a look at what you can expect to find.

On October 12, add texture to your bangle set with new braided leather wraps available in cream leather with Rafaelian Gold Finish accents and black with Rafaelian Silver Finish accents.

There is also the intricate Gift of Wisdom Wrap, which you will find in Rafaelian Gold, Rafaelian Silver and Rose Gold Finishes. My favorite part about these wraps is, of course, the Mickey Mouse shaped-head on the end of both sides!


Debuting October 19 is a nostalgic line considered part of the ALEX AND ANI “Precious” collection. These beautiful new pieces include a Mickey Filigree expandable necklace and ring, a pull chain bracelet and post earrings. Each item will be sold individually in .925 sterling silver or if you’re a fan of gold, look for the 14kt gold plated version. Tip: Please note that only Downtown Disney District and Disney Springs locations will offer the “Precious” collection at this time.

Look for all of these ALEX AND ANI pieces at:

Disneyland Resort

Walt Disney World Resort

Tip: The wraps shown above will be available online on or around the same dates as they debut at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort merchandise locations. Please note: The “Precious” collection will not debut online until November 23.

Which one will you add to your collection?

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Team Travels Overseas for Conservation

posted on September 23rd, 2015 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs

Not long ago, Dr. Deidre Fontenot shared with us her passion for saving an endangered species of a bird native only to Guam, the Guam rail. Dr. Deidre and her team travelled to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam to continue their long-standing efforts to increase the islands’ population of endangered birds, including the Guam rail and another endangered bird, the Guam kingfisher.

The accidental introduction of a brown tree snake onto the island of Guam has decimated the island’s avifauna, which are those species of birds that live only in Guam. Several of those species have gone extinct, while more are on the brink. Brown tree snakes have no predator on the island, so they have reproduced in huge numbers and consumed nearly all the birds in Guam. During this visit, the Disney team helped relocate certain species of birds on one island to a nearby island where brown tree snakes don’t exist, to start a new population. We hope they will multiply and be less susceptible to extinction.

They documented their adventure with photos in the slideshow below.

While we may not have Guam rails or Guam kingfishers for you to see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we soon hope to show you have another bird native to Guam— the Mariana fruit dove! You can look forward to seeing this dove in the aviary on Maharajah Jungle Trek. We hope the dove will be a conservation ambassador for its species and help tell the story of our work to save these magnificent animals. You can hear more about this story and many others as part of Backstage Tales, a behind-the-scenes tour of our animal care facilities, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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QUIZ: Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on September 22nd, 2015 by Rose Monahan, Librarian, Walt Disney World Resort

A trip through Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is an absolute must for many guests visiting the park. How well do you know the savannas? Test your knowledge below.


Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

How large is Kilimanjaro Safaris?
Which animal will you NOT see during your adventure on the Kilimanjaro Safaris?
What area of Disney's Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safaris located?
When Disney's Animal Kingdom begins offering Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris, which two new species of animals will guests see?
What are the names of the 3 baby giraffes that were introduced to the savannah in August 2015?
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