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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating World Veterinary Day at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

posted on April 29th, 2015 by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


World Veterinary Day promotes animal health, animal welfare and public health globally. Since its initiation in 2000, this day has been recognized on the last Saturday of April and provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about the amazing work veterinarians around the world do to protect and care for animals and people. At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we share these same goals, as our veterinary teams care for our diverse animal population.

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This year, World Veterinary Day fell on April 25.

If you ask me, I believe we have the most amazing animal-care team on the planet, but I may be biased. The most incredible thing about our vets and the team as a whole is that we make the extraordinary seem routine every day. We take care of every animal – from turtles and tigers to red river hogs and birds.

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You can see our world-class vets in action at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can watch live animal medical procedures and talk to the vets and animal keepers after the live procedures as well. Most procedures are scheduled before noon, so be sure to take the Wildlife Express Train to Conservation Station for this unique experience.

Did you know…?

  • Our veterinary staff cares for animals in many locations including: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, Tri-Circle D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, and Castaway Cay.
  • The state-of-the-art veterinary facilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom include an X-ray room, ultrasound equipment, surgical suites and full-service laboratories. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians use these tools to focus on preventative health and creating new methods to diagnose and treat animals, ranging in size from a two-gram poison dart frog to a 13,000-pound African elephant.

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#DisneyKids: Meeting Characters at Disney Parks

posted on April 24th, 2015 by Jamie Langdon, Social Media Manager


One of the most fun things to do with little ones at Walt Disney World Resort is take them to meet the characters that they enjoy from beloved stories and films. It is one of those magical moments that you never forget as a parent, and it creates a memory that kids can relive at home by looking at photos and autograph books from your trip. From Disney Junior characters and Pixar friends, to fairytale princesses and the Fab 5, there is no shortage of opportunities for kids to interact with their favorites.

Parent tips: Utilize FastPass+ to bypass lines at select locations, and have Disney Photo Pass photographers capture shots of the entire family that can be added to your My Disney Experience account via your MagicBand.

Here’s a roundup of some of our guests’ top meet and greet locations in all four theme parks.

Magic Kingdom Park

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For Disney’s Hollywood Studios, click here. For Epcot, click here. For Disney’s Animal Kingdom, click here.

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Show your #DisneySide at the Final Expedition Everest Challenge at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Aubrey Hang, Sports Marketing Community Manager, runDisney


On Saturday, May 2 runDisney will host its final Expedition Everest Challenge. This exciting nighttime 5K through Disney’s Animal Kingdom includes obstacles throughout the course and is followed by a scavenger hunt making it the ultimate adventure.

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Get prepared for this final run on the wild side by showing your best Everest #DisneySide. Check out this gallery of some of my favorite outfits spotted during previous races.

To get you ready for the journey, Leslie Kay of DisneyBound put together this male look with pieces from Champion and New Balance.

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Yeti or not, I can’t wait to see your wild outfit choices and share with you highlights from this year’s race in my next post. Good luck to all participants!

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Join the ‘Party for the Planet’ Starting on Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 20th, 2015 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


Over the next few weeks, a visit to Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch should be a must-do on your itinerary.

After arriving in the land of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, hop aboard the Wildlife Express Train to make your way to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Moments after disembarking from the train, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about exciting conservation efforts taking place around the world – some led by nonprofit organizations supported by the Disney Conservation Fund, and others supported by our own Disney’s Animal Programs researchers and educators.

Disney Parks Blog Exclusive: The fund recently opened a new gallery to showcase conservation programs implementing unique conservation solutions to address urgent threats facing today’s wildlife. If you’ve contributed to the Disney Conservation Fund, this is a great place to learn more about projects you have helped support, as well as ways our Disney cast members are leading conservation efforts around the world. On behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide – thank you!

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On Wednesday, April 22, exclusive Earth Day activities will be offered during our “Party for the Planet” Earth Day celebration. You can participate in interactive activities, explore limited time merchandise offerings, and interact with animal and education experts from Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment and the Disney Conservation Fund team about conservation projects currently in progress.

This year’s “Party for the Planet” celebration includes two exclusive “research stations” at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Main Entrance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These research stations allow you to see behind-the-scenes footage from the newest Disneynature film, “Monkey Kingdom,” while exploring how technology is used to enhance conservation efforts. You will have the opportunity to get an up-close, hands-on look at the technology scientists use to learn about animals, as well as the valuable data that comes from special equipment called camera traps. Many of the tools showcased at these research stations were used throughout production of the newest Disneynature film, “Monkey Kingdom.” This limited time offering is in partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Conservation International.

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Thankfully, the “party” doesn’t stop after Earth Day. One of the best things about “Monkey Kingdom” is that for every ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2015), Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats! The Disneynature “Monkey Kingdom” research station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch will be open April 22 – May 20.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch has been one the best kept secrets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom … but hopefully not for long – we hope to see you soon!

Want to bring the fun of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disneynature “Monkey Kingdom” home? Download this free family activity packet for more information and fun activities for all ages.

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#DisneyKids: Enjoying Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 17th, 2015 by Jamie Langdon, Social Media Manager


In honor of Earth Day next week and the fact that many children have an endless fascination with animals, we wanted to focus this week’s #DisneyKids story on our furry, feathered and scaled friends at the Walt Disney World Resort. There are quite a few areas both in the theme parks and at the resorts where guests of all ages can interact with their favorite animals.

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As the name suggests, Disney’s Animal Kingdom park is home to magnificent creatures across 250 species, and is an incredible place for little ones to learn about wildlife. Even better, there are several self-guided areas where families can go at their own pace without lines – perfect for toddlers who aren’t interested in sitting still for long. Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a favorite of my own little girls because they can decide how long we spend checking out each animal like gorillas and hippos.

For a day outside of the theme parks, another place that is a huge hit with horse lovers is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at the laid-back Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Little ones over the age of two can enjoy pony rides, and the entire family can take a carriage or wagon ride through the beautiful resort grounds.

Check out more ideas for your little animal lovers here.

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Caption This: Meeting Dinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 14th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This brave young guest is cozying up to one of the colorful dinos in Dinoland, U.S.A., at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Sure looks like they’re pretty good buddies. What are they up to? Tell us in the “Comments” section below.

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Helping Hands Helping Nature with The Walt Disney Company

posted on April 11th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Earth Month is a special time for all of us at Disney—and even around the world—as we are reminded of how we can join together and care for the world we share. At the Company, one of the ways we protect wildlife and wild places is through the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF).

Established in 1995 on Earth Day, the Disney Conservation Fund’s mission is to protect the planet and connect kids with nature. It supports nonprofits that conserve wildlife, engage communities in conservation and connect kids with nature. The fund has provided $27 million in guest dollars and corporate support for conservation projects in 114 countries and connected more than 12 million kids with nature.

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Helping families connect with nature through sponsoring NatureRocks.org, saving the Central American river turtle and working to reduce human-wildlife conflicts are just a few of the projects the fund supports.

Every dollar you donate to the fund is matched by The Walt Disney Company and goes directly to nonprofit organizations. A portion of the Wild Africa Trek tour admission fee in Disney’s Animal Kingdom also supports the fund.

A Priceless Encounter in a Theme Park

You can witness wildlife conservation here at Walt Disney World Resort. Dr. Anne Savage, Conservation Director, Disney’s Animals, Science & Environment (ASE), and James Mejeur, Zoological Manager, spearhead a special project. Though ASE funds their own projects, they’re partnering with the Purple Martin Conservation Association (which has received grants from the Disney Conservation Fund) and scientists from York University as they help save the purple martin, the largest member of the swallow family. Starting with only six pairs of breeding birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there are now 120 pairs of birds and 240 total purple martins that return across property annually.

“One of the things I ask people,” Dr. Savage said, “is, ‘Have you ever been to the Amazon Rainforest?’ No? Well, these birds have.” The birds migrate from Brazil by early January to nest and raise their chicks here on property. Once the chicks are ready, they all make the 3,000-mile journey back to South America in June and July.

It’s a great way to involve guests, as I recently observed at the Purple Martin Garden in Epcot. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. during the breeding season, Lauren Moscar, Conservation Programs Technician, checks on 50 nest compartments.

The impact on the guests is obvious as they gather around to watch Lauren. She even shows them the nests and any eggs. On this day, there were quite a few youngsters obviously transfixed by what Lauren was sharing with them.

“I love talking to the guests and answering their questions,” Lauren told me. “It’s what it’s all about.”

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Why Guests Can’t Get Enough of ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 10th, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


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There’s something about “Festival of the Lion King“—the music, the performers, the staging and the overall celebratory feeling—that excites guests with every performance.

This magnificent musical tribute to a young lion’s journey of discovery is created in such a way as to keep you engaged in every aspect of the story. As Tara Anderson, show director for “Festival of the Lion King,” stated: “With our production, we don’t tell the story of “‘The Lion King’.” We celebrate the music and the characters of the story. We hit all the beats of the story, but we do it in a very artistic way.”

While some audience members are welcomed to participate, guests can feel like longtime friends in this lush, exotic world. And once Timon takes the stage to lead everyone in “Hakuna Matata”, it’s impossible not to feel drawn into all the magic.

Among the show’s highlights are the very agile and sprightly Tumble Monkeys, a troupe put together by their pal, Timon. The highly-trained acrobats perform Olympic-style feats in sync to a lively jazz medley.

Of course, that cunning, two-faced Scar is also at hand, spreading villainy with his snarky hyena henchmen in “Be Prepared” which features an electrifying fire dance. But love literally soars above it all when the Flying Bird performers, clad in radiant color and plumage, bring “Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ to the highest heights in sheer balletic splendor.

“The show has wonderful individual elements,” Tara said. “What makes it work is all those elements coming together and being that circle of life.” And that is the feeling that is evoked when you hear the “Circle of Life” being sung and see all the entertainers dressed as the animals take the stage for the finale. Timon then leads everyone in singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with the Tumble Monkeys performing for all.

There are performances throughout the day, so check your Time Guide. You can use your Fastpass+ to pre-arrange times for viewing.

What is your favorite part of the show? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: New Birds Join the Beautiful Flock at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 8th, 2015 by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


On your last visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, did you have a chance to visit any of the animal walking trails? Not far down the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, adventurous guests can step into the Africa Aviary in which 221 birds of 29 different bird species live and thrive!

I’m part of a team of four Zoological Managers who have the pleasure of working with our keeper team to care for the different bird species in the aviary and also help delight our guests by introducing them to the amazing world of birds.

Earlier this year, the Africa Aviary was renovated and over the past few months, all the birds have been moved back to their newly landscaped home where we can now exhibit much smaller birds.

Five new species of birds have joined our Pangani flock — bronze mannikins, cut-throat finches, lavender waxbills, pintail whydah and paradise whydah. All bring a variety of colors, behaviors and songs to the already-thriving avian chorus. They may be small in size, but they can generally be seen in large groups flying through the aviary.

The bronze mannikin boasts flecks of shimmery bronze embedded in its feathers. These birds are commonly found in most parts of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

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Don’t be frightened by their name — cut-throat finches are actually named due to the males’ red marking or “slash” on their necks! Males are easily distinguishable by this red slash, while females lack the markings. Flocks of these finches stretch across northern Africa from Senegal and Gambia all the way to Sudan. They have even been found as far south as Mozambique.

Male Cut-Throat Finches have a Red Marking on Their Throat, While Females Do Not Male Cut-Throat Finches have a Red Marking on Their Throat, While Females Do Not

Lavender waxbills are aptly named for the touch of light pearl grey, almost lavender coloring of their feathers. These birds have a unique song that consists of one short, high-pitched burst followed by one long, deeper hum. (Think of a slide whistle.) They are found in central and western Africa—from Senegal, to Cameroon and Chad.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Lavender Waxbills in the Africa Aviary Down Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Keep Your Eyes Open for Lavender Waxbills in the Africa Aviary Down Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Finally, the pintail and paradise whydahs are speckled, tawny colored birds with interesting patterns covering their heads and backs. Males of both species have extremely long black tails in the breeding season which they use in their courtship displays. In the non-breeding season males resemble the browner striped females. These birds reside in southern and east Africa and “parasitize” the nests of other finches—that is, they lay their eggs in the nests of other finches instead of building their own, and they let the host birds raise their young.

Pintail Whydah + Juvenile Paradise Whydah in Non-Breeding Season Once Males Reach Maturity, During Breeding Season Their Plumage Includes a Beautiful, Long Black Tail and Many of the Tawny Colored Feathers Turn a Much Darker Shade

Look for these birds and the other 24 species in the Africa aviary on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They move quickly, so keep your eyes open! We hope to see you soon!

*Disney Parks Blog Exclusive: In the next few months even more species will be added to the aviary. Stay tuned for updates!

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QUIZ: Are You a DINOSAUR Expert?

posted on April 7th, 2015 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


DINOSAUR is a fan-favorite ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Have you taken an adventurous trip back to the age of the dinosaurs at this attraction? Test your knowledge below!


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DINOSAUR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

What dinosaur do you travel back in time to rescue from extinction?
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What is the name of the vehicle you board for your time travel journey?
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Approximately how far back in time do you travel in DINOSAUR?
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Who is narrating as you enter into the Dino Institute?
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What is the first dinosaur you encounter when you travel back in time?
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