Halloween at Walt Disney World Resort

Special Edition Wildlife Wednesday: What Do Rhinos, Art Auctions and Imagineers Have in Common?

posted on October 29th, 2014 by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Animal Health Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


World Rhino Day is officially recognized each year on September 22, and provides a great opportunity to share information and raise awareness about the exponential rise in rhinoceros poaching in the wild. While some are aware of the declining numbers of rhinos in the wild, many don’t have the opportunity to take the next step to help reverse the decline. Chad Harmon, a member of the team who works with animals in the Ituri Forest on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, took matters into his own hands. He and his wife started a non-profit organization called The Horns and Heroes Project – an organization that combines the conservation of rhinos around the world with the passion and creativity of the art community.

The organization’s first event, in 2012, invited 50 artists from around the Orlando, Fla. area to decorate cast moldings of rhino horns. These decorated horns were then displayed at an auction event and 100 percent of the $6,000 proceeds were sent to the International Rhino Foundation. The ‘Heroes’ portion of the organization’s title comes in as the money donated supports the front line park rangers patrolling on the ground, risking their lives against armed poachers to keep rhinos safe in the wild.

So, that covers rhinos and art auctions, but where does Disney Imagineer, Joe Rohde, fit in?

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This year over 70 artists decorated rhino busts that were auctioned off. Joe Rohde learned about the event and showed support by creating his own piece of artwork that was showcased along with members of the Orlando community and Disney’s Animal Programs. A Zoological Manager on the elephant team, Steve Lefave, created the piece of art that produced the highest bid – over $900! The piece, titled “Abbey Normal,” was created using several recycled pieces and depicts a “Frankenstein”-like rhino. When asked about his inspiration for the piece, Lefave said, “If we don’t protect the rhino, we will have to recreate it by some other means.” Lefave also spoke very highly of the organization with admiration that is “through the roof” because he knows all the work to save this species comes from the heart.

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Inspired by the guiding principles of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Harmon strives to inspire calls to action by exposing audiences to the subject matter and then provide a way to get involved. Harmon’s intention is to invite art lovers to come in the door, but then leave an art lover who is also a conservationist. The most recent event raised over $23,000 with over 400 people in attendance!

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Organizations like this are just one way that Disney cast members are making a difference around the world. Keep an eye out for upcoming events in your area and opportunities to get involved in other conservation programs, organizations and initiatives!

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Disney PhotoPass Service Simplifies Access to Walt Disney World Photos, Videos

posted on October 28th, 2014 by Sandi Wallace, Walt Disney World Communications


With attraction photos, you can capture some amazing Disney moments. And now, Disney PhotoPass Service is making it even easier for you to collect those memories.

Beginning today, if you’re wearing an active MagicBand on select Walt Disney World Resort attractions, your photos will be automatically associated to your My Disney Experience account. You don’t have to do anything. In fact, if you’ve worn your MagicBand on one of the participating attractions in the last 45 days, you should be able to find that photo in your account now.

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Don’t have a MagicBand? Don’t worry. We’re making it easier for you, too. Today we turned on new touch points at Magic Kingdom Park (Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain). So after you ride, simply find your photo on the preview wall and touch your park ticket or Memory Maker card to the touch point to associate your photo. We expect to have photo touch points installed at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks by mid-November.

Beginning soon, guests wearing active MagicBands will have attraction videos automatically associated to their accounts. Videos are currently available for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Just like attraction photos, if you’ve worn your MagicBand on one of the participating attractions in the last 45 days, you should be able to find that attraction video in your account soon. Guests will be able to view these videos in their accounts, but a Memory Maker entitlement is required to download and share them.

Just remember that all Disney PhotoPass photos and videos expire 45 days after they are taken. So be sure to log in to your account to secure your memories before they expire.

And watch for more exciting news coming from Disney PhotoPass Service soon!

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#DisneyKids: First Playground Visit at Disney Parks

posted on October 24th, 2014 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


At Disney Parks, even our playgrounds are driven by story. Whether it’s a whimsical playscape inside the Dumbo attraction in New Fantasyland or the larger than life Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a first visit to a Disney Parks playground is a memorable experience during a visit to the Walt Disney World Resort.

We’re continuing our exclusive #DisneyKids series this week with special peek at some first visits to The Boneyard, an open-air playground modeled to resemble a dinosaur dig site specifically for younger children (10 and under) in Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

If you’re visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, we’re sharing more fun ideas for the little ones as well as some offers designed with your family in mind on our special preschool page.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarins Explore Their New Home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on October 22nd, 2014 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Last week we helped acquaint you and the newest cotton-top tamarin pair at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Gemma and Draco. The pair has been delighting guests all week. If you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, we’ve got you covered!

Check out these photos to see the pair exploring their new home!

Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarins Explore Their New Home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarins Explore Their New Home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Did you know…?

  • Cotton-top tamarins are a critically endangered species of primate found only in the tropical forests of Colombia. This 1-pound monkey lives 8-10 years in the wild and the median life expectancy in zoos is 11.2 years.
  • Cotton-top tamarins live in social groups of 2-10 individuals.
  • Females, on average, give birth to twins annually and parental care in this species is shared by all group members.
  • Pairs breed every 28 weeks in captivity, but once a year in the wild. The birth period in the wild appears to be linked to the rainy season when there is the greatest abundance of fruit and insects in the diet.
  • Disney’s Animal Programs’ team members have helped coordinate cotton-top tamarin pairings since 1997 through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP).
  • The word ‘tamarin’ translates to ‘tití’(pronounced tee-tee) in Spanish. Proyecto Tití’s conservation program works to protect cotton-top tamarins in their tropical forest home in Colombia by having a 20+ year study of these amazing animals that has given us new insights into what they need to survive in the wild. Since field studies alone won’t save cotton-top tamarins, Proyecto Tití has also developed innovative strategies to empower local communities to get involved and benefit from conservation activities!
  • Kids in Colombia are involved in conservation, too! Check out the video below to learn more about Proyecto Tití’s programs and the impact they have had on the community and cotton-top tamarin conservation efforts!

On your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to stop by and welcome Draco and Gemma into their new home!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarins Are ‘On the Move’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on October 15th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of excitement, updates and changes! Even some of the animals are in on the excitement, including two cotton-top tamarins, Gemma and Draco, who just moved into a new home.

Gemma, a female tamarin, has been delighting guests at Rafiki’s Planet Watch since December 2000 where she was voted “best personality” by her keepers. In March 2011, she moved to Discovery Island to debut the remodeled tamarin island in front of the Tree of Life. This week she was joined by Draco for her second grand opening in a brand new exhibit which will bring their world even closer to guests. Draco, a male tamarin, has spent most of his life with his parents and five siblings in an indoor exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo. He joined us at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in August. His debut will mark the first time he has experienced an outdoor exhibit! He has already been observed chasing lizards in his backstage area.

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Since his arrival, Draco also has spent time becoming acquainted with his new mate, Gemma. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) identified the pair as potential mates within its Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP works to ensure long-term survival of species by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals. Through the efforts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SSP, more than 300 cotton-top tamarins are cooperatively managed in more than 80 U.S. zoos. Over the past few weeks, Gemma and Draco have shown great interest in each other, and we believe they will be happy and successful mates.

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While Gemma and Draco finish acclimating and comfortably settle into their new home over the next few weeks, their job as animal ambassadors is just beginning! The cotton-top tamarin is one of the most endangered primates in the world. A 2008 census conducted by our partners at Proyecto Tití in Colombia concluded that only 7,500 cotton-tops remained in the wild, and the population has been severely impacted by habitat destruction throughout its range in Colombia. This information prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Primate Specialist Group to recommend changing the classification of cotton-top tamarins from Endangered to Critically Endangered in 2008. Since then, Proyecto Tití increased their public outreach and education programs, stopped the development of a proposed airport, and secured two new protected areas for cotton-top tamarins and other wildlife to live safely in Colombia. The impact of the work is beginning to pay off, as we find communities are embracing conservation efforts and the population of cotton-tops appears stable!

One outreach program has taught women to crochet using plastic bags like the ones we bring home from the grocery store. (What a great way to recycle and keep trash out of the forest!) They make beautiful, colorful tote bags called ‘eco-mochilas’. These unique and environmentally friendly totes are sold locally in Colombia, online, and at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purchasing an eco-mochila helps communities in Colombia earn money for their families and protect forests that the cotton-top tamarins call home.

Don’t miss next week’s Wildlife Wednesday post to see Gemma and Draco in their new home, learn more about cotton-top conservation work and how education programs beginning in younger generations are positively affecting communities in Colombia. Until then, check out the video below to see some of the conservation work Proyecto Tití has already accomplished!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference!

posted on October 8th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


At the recent annual Association of Zoos and Aquariums meeting, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was recognized for our success with breeding a very special African bird. We received Top Honors (1st place) as the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award recipient for our Taveta golden weaver sustainability program.

The Edward H. Bean Award is a historic award within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognizing rearing or management programs that contribute to the reproductive success of one or more species (and/or subspecies). Award eligibility takes into account the significance of the breeding program for the conservation of the species and the long-term commitment to the breeding program. It identifies a truly significant effort that clearly enhances the conservation of a species.

Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference! Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference!

From 1998-2014, our Aviary team successfully bred over 900 Taveta golden weaver chicks, which was instrumental in safeguarding the North American population. These chicks now live in AZA accredited zoos across the country, helping ensure that we maintain a genetically diverse population. To help the overall profession, the team also published two articles in scientific peer reviewed journals, and they have shared research findings and best practices at various conference sessions over the years. Please join me in congratulating all who have worked to conserve this species (and many others) since Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998!

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Did you know … ?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Aviary team also received the Edward H. Bean Award in 2008 for success with Carmine Bee-eaters.
  • Disney’s Animal Programs cast members are a part of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team. In addition to caring for the many animals at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, the team strives to inspire Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to lead the way in environmental stewardship and connect people, animals, and plants to conserve nature for future generations.
  • Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team includes cast members who specialize in education, veterinary care, conservation, marine and land animals, and everything in between!
  • Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members also partner with various organizations to conserve wildlife and wild places across the globe.

Don’t miss next week’s Wildlife Wednesday to learn more about the exciting work of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team!

For more from the Wildlife Wednesday series, visit the posts below:

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Wildly Spooky Treats at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on September 26th, 2014 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


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As it gets closer to Halloween, we keep scaring up more and more treats at Walt Disney World Resort. Recently, I shared the ghoulish delights you can find at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, so now let’s take a look at some of the frightfully fantastic treats you can find at our other Walt Disney World theme parks.

Kusafiri Bakery and Isle of Java in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park are serving up creepy concoctions. I couldn’t resist this adorable demitasse mug, which combines some of my favorite things—Minnie Mouse, pumpkins and chocolate mousse. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, the chocolate brownie with spooky sprinkles is to die for, while a sweet pumpkin muffin is a perfect way to start a fall morning.

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I adore gummy candies, so I was especially excited about the Spooky Worms ‘n Dirt Sundae from Discovery Island Ice Cream. A scoop of your favorite flavor gets topped with crushed chocolate cookies, gummy worms, whipped cream and spooky sprinkles. You’ll also find the frightful Bat Cupcake—chocolate cake topped with white icing, sprinkles and a chocolate bat.

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If cupcakes are your favorite, you’re not going to want to miss the bewitching offerings at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sunshine Seasons at Epcot is brewing up a chocolate Witch Cupcake with a peanut butter filling. If you’re craving carrot cake, head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for their tasty take on this cupcake. Which witch will you choose?

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Wildlife Wednesday: Welcome a New Western Lowland Gorilla to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on September 24th, 2014 by Rachel Daneault, Primate-Carnivore Zoological Manager


‘Ni kijana!’ is Swahili phrase that means ‘It’s a boy!’ This exciting exclamation was heard on September 3rd when we celebrated the arrival of a new baby in the gorilla family troop at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Our avid Disney Parks Blog readers might be thinking, “Didn’t you just announce a new gorilla baby?” Yes, we did! This is the second gorilla birth this year, and the fifth in the park’s history. The first gorilla birth at Disney’s Animal Kingdom occurred in 1997 before the park opened, the second baby arrived in 1999 and the third was born in 2010.
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Western lowland gorillas are born with dark brown to black hair, black skin, and brown or reddish hair on their head. Mature males of breeding age develop silver or gray coloring on their backs and are consequently known as “silverbacks.” Juvenile and young-adult male gorillas are called “blackbacks” because they have yet to develop the silver markings. The diet of Western lowland gorillas is very diverse, including over 200 distinct species of plants, mainly leaves, buds, shoots, roots, bark and fruit. In the tropical rainforests of western Africa where they live, termites and ants are also great snack options. Unfortunately, West African rainforests are shrinking due to human encroachment and land clearing connected to agriculture and other pressures. Coltan is a mineral used in the production of cell phones, and mining for this mineral makes habitats unsuitable for gorillas and other wildlife. Recycling old cell phones and other electronics is a great way to reduce the need for coltan mining and, in turn, help conserve these amazing animals and their habitat.

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All Western lowland gorilla babies born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures long-term survival of species by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals. Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species that face threats that include disease and illegal bushmeat hunting in the wild. In addition to supporting the gorilla SSP, Disney also contributes to gorilla conservation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), which has provided more than $700,000 in conservation grants to 14 nonprofit organizations focused on research and conservation of Western lowland gorillas, cross-river gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas and mountain gorillas.
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While we celebrate and welcome the newest baby gorilla here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, remember that you can join us in taking action to help gorillas and other wildlife. Recycle old cell phones to protect gorillas’ habitats from mining, and visit Disney.com/conservation to learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts and discover new ways to support conservation near you!

If you missed the last gorilla baby announcement, click here to view the story and catch up on all the excitement!

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‘Festival of the Lion King’ Celebrates 1 Million Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Since Reopening

posted on September 20th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Earlier this week, the cast of the popular stage show “The Festival of The Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom marked a major milestone – 1 million guests have attended the show since it reopened in the new Harambe Theatre this past June.

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The LePage Family from Colorado Springs, CO, were the lucky 1 millionth family, and were recognized with front-row seats and a special meet-and-greet opportunity with the show’s cast after the performance concluded.

In case you aren’t familiar with the show, “The Festival of The Lion King” is a fun retelling of the story of Simba the lion cub that is told through song, dance, acrobatics, aerial performances and more. It debuted at the park in Camp Minnie-Mickey in 1998. The show relocated to the new Harambe Theatre in the Africa section of the park earlier this year.

What do you enjoy most about this show? Tell us in the “Comments” section below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Elephants and Rhinos on September 23

posted on September 17th, 2014 by Erin Gallagher, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to over 1,800 animals who serve as ambassadors to their counterparts in the wild. Cast members work to educate guests through activities like Wilderness Explorers, exploration trails and attractions like Kilimanjaro Safaris. Helping protect wildlife and wild places is at the core of The Walt Disney Company and recognizing the intrinsic value of nature is a guiding principle of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Throughout the day, in locations across the park, conservation messages are shared and calls to action prompt guests to learn more about endangered species and ways to get involved even after returning home.

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Conservation Station is a great place to continue your adventure and learn about conservation efforts taking place at the park. Through informative hands-on exhibits and a viewable onsite research facility, Conservation Station invites you to uncover the mysteries of the wild—and to go behind the scenes of Disney’s efforts to promote conservation awareness.

For guests interested in elephants, rhinos, and conservation efforts for these great animals, September 23 will be a great day to visit as Conservation Station hosts Elephant and Rhino Day, a celebration dedicated to two beautiful, but endangered animal species. Education cast members will staff hands-on activities, the work of the Animal Nutrition Center will be highlighted and Animal Keepers from the Elephant, Savannahs, and Ituri Forest teams will be present to share information and answer questions related to the animal-care profession. Guests will also have the opportunity to speak with representatives from various conservation organizations including the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to learn more about opportunities to get involved.

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Let us know what you do to help conserve wildlife and wild places in your area!

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