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Wildlife Wednesday: Animals at Walt Disney World Enjoyed the Holiday Season with Festive Enrichment Gifts!

posted on January 7th, 2015 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


As many finish packing up the holiday décor (and others resist a few more days), we have one more holiday post to keep the joyous spirit alive.

If you’ve visited Walt Disney World Resort during the holidays, you know the festivities and holiday cheer are all around! But our guests and cast members aren’t the only ones who experienced the holiday spirit … Our animals did too! This holiday season, the Science Operations Team hosted a competition for the animal care teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Animal keepers were challenged to create inventive animal enrichment experiences highlighting specific holiday themes, including wreaths, snow, candy canes, presents, gingerbread and ornaments.

The teams then designed these themed holiday “gifts” for the animals under their care with the goals of highlighting some of their natural behaviors, introducing the holiday spirit, and providing unique viewing opportunities for our guests. We thought it would be fun to share a few of the many great ideas the animal care staff came up with — so here it goes!

This Asian-Small Clawed Otter Looks Like he’s Making Snow Balls Cotton-Top Tamarins Experienced Snow on the Rooftop of their Home As Well!

On Discovery Island, Asian-small clawed otters experienced all the fun of snow, a rare occurrence in sunny Florida. Nearby, Cotton-top tamarins experienced a snow-covered roof, icicle treats and a snowman at their home, also on Discovery Island.

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The Western lowland gorillas on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail gather goodies from a tire-swing wreath decorated with edible treats including fruit, vegetables and hay.

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Just around the corner, slender-tailed meerkats on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail seemed eager to explore an oversize wreath of their own. This one is made from grass flats and barley and decorated with pinecones.

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Guests who traveled to Conservation Station had the opportunity to decorate ornaments with conservation messages for the African elephants. The animal keepers then decorated trees with these fun edible creations and delivered them to all members of the elephant herd.

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Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge had the opportunity to work with animal keepers to craft enrichment “presents” for the animals and then stayed to watch as the animals enjoyed their creations. This Roan antelope found a firehouse-cube “gift” complete with a leafy bow under their holiday tree. The tree was made from edible browse and decorated with vegetable ornaments to enjoy.

Did you know?

  • Enrichment is a key part of the animal care program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Enrichment allows animals to make choices about their environment and encourages natural behaviors. These initiatives enable guests to see the cool adaptations that help animals survive.
  • You can enrich the lives of wildlife and encourage natural behaviors in your own backyard by adding a bird bath, native plants, log piles and bird houses. Then, sit back and enjoy the fun of watching wildlife up close!
  • To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, please visit: www.disney.com/conservation.

Happy New Year!

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Top 5 Entertainment Milestones at Disney Parks in 2014

posted on December 31st, 2014 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


There’s nothing our Creative Entertainment team enjoys more than producing amazing live entertainment for our guests. Here are just a few of the new experiences that debuted in Disney Parks around the world in 2014:

Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade: Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty"

  1. Disney Festival of Fantasy” Parade – This stunning daytime spectacular took to the streets of Magic Kingdom Park in March with amazingly detailed floats, vibrantly colored costumes, energetic performances, and a fire-breathing dragon – all created on an enormous scale never before seen at Walt Disney World Resort!

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  1. Seasonal Celebrations at Disneyland Paris – Already known for their festivals at Halloween and Christmas, Disneyland Paris took it up two notches this year with lively celebrations of spring and summer. “Swing Into Spring” and “Summertime” brought fresh, new promenades and shows to Main Street and the Castle Stage, along with character appearances and live music throughout both parks at the resort.

“For The First Time in Forever: A ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration”  at Disney's Hollywood Studios

  1. Summer Events at Walt Disney World Resort – It was a summer of hot and cool special events at Walt Disney World Resort. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Harambe Nights honored the 20th anniversary of “The Lion King” with the hottest party this side of Africa, featuring live concerts, celebrity narrators, and an unforgettable nighttime celebration. Meanwhile, “Frozen Summer Fun LIVE!” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios cooled things down with ice-skating, real snow, and a procession, sing-along, and fireworks featuring appearances by Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf.

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  1. New Disney Character Friends – A highlight of any visit to a Disney Park is getting to meet Mickey Mouse and his pals. In 2014, some other characters stopped in to say “Hello!” for the first time. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, one of Walt Disney’s first cartoon creations, visited Tokyo DisneySea and Disney California Adventure park, where our guests also got to meet Doc McStuffins from Disney Junior. And Hiro and Baymax flew in hot on the heels of the release of their new movie, “Big Hero 6.”

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  1. Nighttime Spectaculars – Disney Parks dazzled after dark in 2014 with the introduction of several new nighttime spectaculars. The award-winning “Once Upon a Time” came to Tokyo Disneyland in summer, and the new “Disney Paint the Night” Parade lit up Hong Kong Disneyland in October. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, nightly “Symphony in the Stars” fireworks debuted during Star Wars Weekends, and even more “Frozen” fun was added to “World of Color – Winter Dreams” at Disney California Adventure park and “Disney Dreams… of Christmas” in Disneyland Paris.

All this, plus the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour event over Memorial Day weekend, expansion of Halloween on the High Seas to all four ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, and more!

There’s been quite a lot happening in the world of Creative Entertainment this year, and 2015 promises to be even bigger, especially with “Frozen Fun” and the Diamond Celebration coming to Disneyland Resort. Keep reading Disney Parks Blog all year long, and we’ll have the scoop for you. Happy new year!

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Filed: Disney California Adventure Park, Disney Cruise Line, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating Animal Births at Walt Disney World Resort in 2014!

posted on December 31st, 2014 by Dr. Mark Penning, Director of Animal Operations, Disney Parks


Earlier this year, avid Disney Parks Blog readers joined us as we celebrated the arrival of two Western lowland gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Western Lowland Gorilla Baby #1 and Mom Western Lowland Gorilla Baby #2 with Mom. Look For the Entire Family Group on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Those births were a very exciting time for our Animal Programs team, but we’ve had plenty of excitement throughout the year with hundreds of births and hatchings! (You are probably thinking, “Where are they keeping all of these baby animals?!”, but keep in mind that this large number includes invertebrates that can have 100 offspring at a time!) While we don’t have the space here to feature all of our new babies, the Animal Programs team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge have helped compile a quick list of some of the baby animals we welcomed this year.

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Just around the corner from the gorilla families on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, you can find a maze of slender-tailed meerkat burrows, and might even catch a glimpse of this baby meerkat or one of its nine siblings! The adults can be seen sitting upright as they keep watch over the newly extended family, and an alarm chirp sends them all scurrying into the safety of the burrows.

Great Blue Turacos Nest in the African Aviary at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Black Cheeked Lovebird Hatchlings Weigh Only 5 grams (About the Weight of a Quarter) at Hatch Look For the Beautiful Black Cheeked Lovebirds on Your Next Visit to the African Aviary on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

A short walk from the meerkats, the African Aviary on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is also home to new babies. These offspring weren’t born, they hatched! The Great blue turaco is the largest of the 23 types of turacos found only in Africa. They are primarily fruit eaters, and although they can fly very well, they prefer to run and scamper about the tree limbs, almost like a squirrel. This beautiful bird and recent hatchling can be seen in the Africa Aviary.

Also in the African Aviary, you can find a colony of Black cheeked lovebirds – a vulnerable African species of parrot. Only two zoos in the United States care for this species. The hatchlings weigh in at only ~5 grams (about the weight of a quarter) and reach only 4 inches in length when they are fully grown.

A wallaby joey is one of the many interesting species you don’t want to miss at the Oasis Exhibits as you begin your adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He is most active during the cooler parts of the day, mornings and after late day rains. If you didn’t see his birth announcement on the Disney Parks Blog, you can check it out here.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris, an open-air vehicle tour of a lush African savannah, is now home to this cute springbok calf, along with three other calves and their families. The springbok is able to run alongside its mother within an hour after birth, but of course it tires quickly, and will then flatten itself into the long grass and hide from predators.

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In 2014, the team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge was delighted to welcome three Thomson’s gazelles, which are very similar in appearance to the springbok. The newest addition, pictured here, is a girl who was born in October. Although she’s resting in this photo, she often leaps and tears around the savannah. Thomson’s gazelles are some of the fastest antelope in Africa, and combine their incredible speed with agile jumps and maneuvers. They are often able to outrun cheetahs and other predators.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is also home to a Red river hog sow and her three piglets, born in May. This is her second litter and the entire family, including dad and aunt, can be found on the Pembe savannah.
(Did you know a female hog is called a “sow”? You did? “Sow” did I!)

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All of our births and hatchings are celebrated because many animals, including the Western lowland gorilla and Black cheeked lovebirds, need our help for their species to survive. Several species are a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). Look for other baby animals and their families throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. We look forward to the New Year as we continue to protect wildlife and wild places around the world.

Happy New Year from all of our families to yours!!

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Disney Characters Stay for Dinner at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on December 17th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


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Tusker House Restaurant in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been a popular spot for breakfast or lunch with favorite Disney characters, and starting March 8, 2015 the lovable bunch is staying on for dinner.

Donald Duck Dressed in his Safari Best at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Donald Duck Dressed in his Safari Best at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Guests will find Donald Duck dressed in his safari best, and other favorite Disney pals Daisy Duck, and Goofy at the restaurant daily, with a lively celebration about once every hour. As you dine, Disney characters visit your table for laughs, photos and autographs.

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This is one of our favorite Disney buffets with the flavors of Africa offered along with all-American tastes. At breakfast, for instance, you can have bacon and eggs, waffles, cereal, fresh fruit and pastries – but also try beef bobotie (spiced minced meat with egg) or fruit chutneys.

Lunch and dinner offer an abundance of savory and sweet tastes, such as spit-roasted chicken, carved beef and Kenyan coffee BBQ pork loin; sides like vegetable samosas, curried rice, tandoori tofu and saffron-infused veggies; classic African tastes such as peri peri salmon, curry chicken and tamarind seafood stew, and pita and lavosh breads. Add chutneys, hummus and tabouli – so many interesting flavors to try. (Youngsters get their own buffet with corn dog nuggets, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes and assorted meats and cheeses.)

And save room for the warm banana-cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce (even at breakfast), chocolate fudge volcano cake, cherry-apple cobbler or a bite of passion fruit tart. Breakfast is 8 a.m. – 10:55 a.m.; lunch, 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and dinner starts at 4 p.m. Cost is $29.99, $16.99 ages 3 to 9 for breakfast, $34.99 and $17.99 for lunch and $41.99 and $19.99 for dinner.

For reservations, call 407-WDW-DINE or visit disneyworld.com/dine.

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Wildlife Wednesday: 9 Intriguing Animals You Don’t Want to Miss at Walt Disney World Resort – No FastPass Required!

posted on December 17th, 2014 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to rush through the day and miss the beauty all around you. In my role, I have the opportunity to work with hundreds of animals and I wanted to share just a few hidden gems. You might have to slow down a bit to find them, but I promise they will be worth a look on your next trip to Walt Disney World Resort. In no particular order:

1. & 2. Red kangaroos & Longnose Gar – Discovery Island Trails & Oasis, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Did you know animals could be found on your way into Disney’s Animal Kingdom? As you enter the park, adventure awaits around every corner, if you take the time to look for it. The longnose gar can be found on the path that crosses through the center of the Oasis just after you enter the park. The red kangaroos can be seen from vantage points at the front of the Tree of Life.

See the Red Kangaroos on Discovery Island Trails & Oasis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom See the Longnose Gar on Discovery Island Trails & Oasis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

3. & 4. Ruppell’s griffon vulture & Nyala – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is more than a resort. It’s home to more than 200 animals including the Ruppell’s griffon vulture and mesmerizing Nyala. All guests are welcome to enjoy the animals at the resort and if you’re looking for lunch plans, up to 12 guests can Dine with Animal Specialists at Sanaa to learn more about all the animals on the savannah!

Visit Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Visit the Nyala at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

5. Argus Pheasant – Maharajah Jungle Trek, Asia, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The Maharajah Jungle Trek is home to more than tigers and bats. Don’t bypass the aviary on your next visit or you’ll miss the beautiful Argus pheasant.

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6. Eld’s deer – Maharajah Jungle Trek, Asia, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Eld’s deer are an endangered species that can also be found on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. On your next visit, take a look at their large floppy ears that can turn independently of one another. Those ears allow the Eld’s deer to hear predators from long distances.

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7. Shetland ponies – Tri-Circle-D Ranch, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is home to plenty of outdoor activities from horseback rides to carriage rides, and even pony rides! The Shetland ponies are located just a few feet from Pioneer Hall at the Tri-Circle-D Farm. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the Draft Horse Barn where you can see a variety of breeds and see a display on the many horses in Disney history.

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8. Pineywoods cow – Affection Section, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Affection Section is a hidden gem in itself. Guests have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few different animals and learn from animal experts and keepers. Pineywoods cattle are a critically endangered breed of “heritage” livestock, so pay this gal a visit. If you’re feeling really inspired, you can contribute to conservation efforts around the world through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

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9. Asian brown tortoise – Dinoland, U.S.A., Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Dinoland, U.S.A. is home to many animals (most are extinct). But it’s in a little island between The Boneyard and Restaurantosaurus that you can find the last animals on our list today. One side of the island is home to the American crocodile, but don’t forget to walk around and say hello to the Asian brown tortoises.

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New Retail MagicBands Arriving in December at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 16th, 2014 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager


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You may recall that my top gift items this year from Disney Parks are retail MagicBands. We recently introduced the “link-it later” option for all retail MagicBands, making them great gifts for guests who may want to show off their Disney Side while visiting Walt Disney World Resort. This month, we are introducing some new open edition, graphic MagicBands on the dates listed below.

  • December 12 – Sorcerer Mickey
  • December 14 – Minnie Mouse’s iconic polka dots
  • December 17 – Stitch
  • December 22 – Disney Princesses

These graphic MagicBands will retail at $19.95 each.

Guests should look for these items in select locations at the four theme parks and Downtown Disney.

You can also find solid color MagicBands and select accessories on our Disney Parks online store by visiting http://www.DisneyStore.com/MagicBands

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Room with a View: ‘Safari View’ Suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

posted on December 12th, 2014 by Michelle Baumann, Walt Disney World Public Relations


Last month, Thomas Smith kicked off a new series on the Disney Parks Blog we’re calling “Room with A View.” It’s a fun way to take a peek inside some Disney resorts that offer amazing views of Walt Disney World Resort.

Today, I want to take you into another favorite view – the savannah room on the second floor of the Jambo House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

From the savannah room, you can see African animals and tropical birds on the nearby savannah. There’s actually 30 species of African wildlife including giraffe, zebra and greater kudu that roam right before your eyes.

It’s so serene and exotic – unlike any other resort in Orlando. And the view inside this room is pretty amazing too. It feels authentic and captures the artistry of African craftsmanship with hand-carved woodwork and rich colors woven in textured fabrics.

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You can book this room now at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. To find prices and availability, visit our Disneyworld.com page.

There are so many views to share with you so stay tuned to the next resort we showcase in our Disney Parks Blog Room with a View series.

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Spread Holiday Cheer with Tasty Treats at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 11th, 2014 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


There’s no place like Walt Disney World Resort for the holidays. From Holidays Around the World at Epcot to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom Park, there is so much to do and so many treats to try. Today, I’m spreading some holiday cheer by sharing some of my favorite holiday treats.

Guests Can Decorate Gingerbread Cookies in the Lobby of Jambo House Guests Can Decorate Gingerbread Cookies in the Lobby of Jambo House

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, guests can decorate gingerbread cookies in the lobby of Jambo House. The suggested $5.00 donation goes to Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. While you’re there, stop by their holiday treat table, where you’ll find all kinds of scrumptious goodies including peppermint bark, chocolate and pistachio crackle cookies, gingerbread cookie animals, butternut crunch bark, coconut cream cupcakes and house-made chocolate hazelnut spread. The African hot chocolate is made from scratch using Ghanaian milk and Tanzanian dark chocolates, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles—perfect to sip by the resort’s fire pit on a cool evening.

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The gorgeous gingerbread house in the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is a Walt Disney World Resort holiday season staple, but just outside the main entrance of the resort’s lobby, you’ll find “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” from noon – 6 p.m. At the Garden View Tea Room, look for festive indulgences like holiday-inspired tea blends, gingerbread scones, apple butter and cranberry trifles. Gasparilla Island Grill is serving up a seasonal holiday turkey sandwich, piled high with traditional fixings like stuffing and cranberry.

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Still craving the sweet stuff? BoardWalk Bakery has a specialty chocolate-peppermint cheesecake cupcake decorated to look like a Christmas Tree.

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If you are looking for some festive in-park treats, be sure to stop by Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a specialty gingerbread cupcake. Adults can take in the beauty of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights with Yuletide cheer in the form of one of several specialty Christmas cocktails available throughout the park, such as the Gumdrop with Stoli Razberi vodka, Chambord, Sprite, pineapple and cranberry juices garnished with candy gumdrops. There’s also a Winter Berry and Torched Holiday Cider and my favorite, the Very Merry Cherry. At Pizza Planet Arcade, you’ll find The Claw—Sauza Gold Tequila, Disaronno, triple sec, and sweet-and-sour served with a souvenir glow cube. Catalina Eddie’s on Sunset Boulevard is the home of Very Berry Lemonade, and at ABC Commissary, you’ll find Holiday Delight—Bacardi Razz rum, blue curacao, orange juice and a splash of Sprite with a souvenir glow cube.

These holiday offerings are only around for a limited time, so be sure to check them out while you can!

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Hotels & Resorts, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Listen To ‘Carol of the Bells’ By Chakranadi At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on December 8th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Of all the musical performances we’ve ever shared on the Disney Parks Blog, this has to be one of the most unique – and emotionally stirring – that I’ve ever heard.

As part of the park’s “Festival of All Seasons” celebration, Chakranadi performs seasonal tunes on the sitar and tablas.

Check it out for yourself.

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Wildlife Wednesday: New Disney Animals Fact-Filled Pages Debut Online

posted on December 3rd, 2014 by Dr. Jill Mellen, Education & Science Director


Do you know why rhinos roll around in the mud or what elephants can do to lower their body temperature? Did you know that one shark can have as many as 30,000 teeth during its lifetime?

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There’s a fun new way to find these answers and learn a lot more about some of the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot and what we are doing to protect them in the wild! The Walt Disney World Resort website has introduced a new Disney Animals section that provides a wealth of information about 10 species that are a very special focus for us.

You can go to DisneyAnimals.com to read about African lions, Asian tigers, rhinos, African elephants, Western lowland gorillas, sharks, cotton-top tamarins, sea turtles, coral reef and migratory birds. While it’s not a complete list of all the animals you can see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or at The Seas with Nemo at Epcot, it represents 10 conservation species Disney is working to protect and provides a valuable connection to nature. We hope this fun animal information inspires you to action! All of the species you read about are endangered, which makes it even more important for us to understand them and to learn more about what we can do to help save the species. You also can read a bit of behind-the-scenes information about how we care for these animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot, as well as some fun facts like the ones that appear at the beginning of this story. Speaking of those, do you know the answers?

  • Rhinos roll in the mud to keep themselves cool, get rid of parasites and prevent sunburns.
  • Elephants can flap their ears to lower their body temperature.
  • Sharks can have as many as 30,000 teeth over their lifetime because their teeth are not rooted in their jaws or gum lines. They can lose teeth when they take a powerful bite out of their prey. But don’t worry! New teeth can grow in just two to eight days.
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Now it’s your turn. Pop quiz! Here are a few questions, and the answers can be found by reading our new Disney Animals pages. When you’re finished, you can check your answers here.

  1. How many lions typically make up a family group, or pride?
  2. Guests can see a critically endangered Sumatran tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. How many of these tigers exist in the wild?
  3. How can you tell the difference between a black rhino and a white rhino? (HINT: It’s not the color of their skin; both are gray.)
  4. Other than humans, elephants do something that few other animals are known to do. What is it?
  5. Gorillas share 98.3 percent of humans’ DNA. However, gorillas have two things humans do not. What are they?
  6. How many species of sharks are there in the world?
  7. Where do cotton-top tamarins live in the wild?
  8. How do female sea turtles choose where to lay their eggs?
  9. Corals provide a home for what percentage of the oceans’ fish?
  10. Name a significant threat to migratory birds. How many birds are killed each year because of this threat?
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