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Name Revealed for Baby Rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on March 30th, 2015 by Karen Jasmin, Zoological Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom


Just a few weeks ago, we asked you, the Disney Parks Blog readers, to help us name the newest female baby rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You spread the message far and wide and over the past week thousands of votes poured in.

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While my vote was for ‘Alora’, I’m excited to announce that the winning name is Kiama! It was the overwhelming majority with more than half of the votes.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the comments section. Some of you shared that you were excited to hear about our conservation work with rhinos and other species around the world. We also learned that many from the city of Kiama in New South Wales, Australia, were excited to see the name of their town as an option. (While I’ve never been to this city in person, after looking at a few photos online, I’d love to visit).

This precious girl will continue to bond and grow with her mom backstage for a few more months, but stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for updates and more information as we near her on-stage debut.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

posted on March 25th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


I am honored to announce that Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge were granted official accreditation once again by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The AZA accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards in animal management and care. Late last year, we hosted an AZA inspection team who assessed everything from the enrichment our animals receive (that stimulates their natural behaviors and provides them variety in their daily routines), to our veterinary program, our conservation and research and education programs, as well as our safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the experience and quality of our staff. They look at everything from each part of the operation not only in animal care but from food and beverage to merchandise. It’s quite the process!

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

After this review, the AZA Accreditation Commission deliberated and shared their decision to accredit Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge this past Sunday.

Being accredited allows us to create and continue to nurture our relationships with other accredited organizations to work toward a common goal of conservation and saving species.

Here are some of the wonderful and humbling comments AZA left with us:

  • “The level and commitment to animal care sets the gold standard for our community. Veterinary, nutrition, training, browse program and enrichment programs are state of the art.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are Committed 'Gold Standard' Care Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are Committed 'Gold Standard' Care
  • “The keeper staff is professional, passionate and engaged.”
  • “Overall safety culture is extraordinarily strong across the organization, and staff training exceeds all expectations.”
  • “Disney’s Animal Kingdom staff has been successful in making conservation a key value of The Walt Disney Company. The current positive impact and future potential of this change cannot be overstated.”
  • “New interpretive programs, including Wilderness [Explorers] and Wild Africa Trek, add both breadth and depth to program offerings.”
Wilderness Explorers at Disney's Animal Kingdom Wilderness Explorers at Disney's Animal Kingdom

They also recognized the amazing amount of work going on with our upcoming expansion and praised our efforts to maintain a strong focus on animals, nature and conservation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Renewing our accreditation also speaks to the importance we place on connecting kids and nature. Both the park and resort provide a quality experience to learn about animal and conservation in a fun, engaging environment.

Congratulations to the Cast of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge once again.

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care
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Special Edition Wildlife Friday: Vote to Name a New Baby Rhino Girl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on March 20th, 2015 by Karen Jasmin, Zoological Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom


Just a few weeks ago, as the sun started to rise on a cool day in late February, Disney’s Animal Kingdom welcomed its second white rhino calf of 2015 into the herd! This one’s a girl and it’s the tenth white rhino baby to be born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

Special Edition Wildlife Friday: Vote to Name a New Baby Rhino Girl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Special Edition Wildlife Friday: Vote to Name a New Baby Rhino Girl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

As we welcome this newest baby and work to deliver uncompromising excellence in animal care for the animals here at the park and across The Walt Disney Company, we haven’t forgotten about their relatives in the wild. Last year, rhinos faced the worst poaching in history, so we continue to support conservation efforts for this and many other vulnerable species around the world. Much long term work to save this species is needed in the wild, but it’s important to celebrate small victories and our animal care team definitely has much to celebrate with seemingly back-to-back white rhino calves born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this year.

While our newest mom and calf won’t make their debut out on the savannas of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve for a couple of months, our newest calf needs a name and this time the choice is yours! The animal care team narrowed it down to four options, so please help us choose which name you like best for her.

Take a look at the heart-warming pictures in the photo gallery and choose your favorite name below. Be sure to rally your friends to make sure your favorite name wins!


Voting will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 26. We’ll reveal the winning name soon after that!

Tell us which name you voted for and why in the comments below.

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Disney Parks Blog Time Capsule: March 2013

posted on March 19th, 2015 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


Two years ago this month, we were looking forward to exciting things at Disney Parks, but we were also looking back at some memorable milestones. Take a look at these three trips back in time that we took our readers on in March 2013.

“Today

Today in Disney History: Journey Into Imagination Opens at Epcot
Jennifer took us back to March 5, 1983, for the opening of Journey Into Imagination at Epcot.

The Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom Under Construction in January 1997

Vintage Walt Disney World: Building an Animal Kingdom
Nate took us back in time for a look at the construction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

“Opening

A Look Back: 1958 Opening of the Grand Canyon Diorama at Disneyland Park
George shared these rare photos of Walt Disney at the 1958 opening of the Grand Canyon Diorama.

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Wildlife Wednesday: 5 Sable Antelope Calves Now on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on March 11th, 2015 by Steve Castillo, Animal Operations Manager, Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Avid Disney Parks Blog readers may remember we welcomed five sable antelope calves to the herd at Disney’s Animal Kingdom not too long ago. We are excited to now share that these adorable calves and their caring moms have officially made their debut on the savannahs of The Harambe Wildlife Reserve!

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Our adult herd consists of one male and six females. Now that the youngest calf is about two months old, all calves are old enough to follow the herd and navigate the savannah with the direction of their mothers. The calves are all doing well and have been exploring their new surroundings. All dams (female antelope) are being attentive to their offspring and the calves are growing fast as they learn their place in the strong social hierarchy of the herd.

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Two whole weeks seem to fly by while on this particular safari, but see if you can catch a glimpse of one of the new sables on your next visit! Until then, check out the photo gallery for more pictures of this beautiful herd.

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Giant Sand Castle in the Snow Announces 24-Hour Party, ‘Coolest Summer Ever’ at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 11th, 2015 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


As you may have seen on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America,” we shared some true Disney magic in winter-weary Boston by creating a warm summer scene, inspired by Olaf’s “In Summer” dream, to officially announce that the “Coolest Summer Ever” is coming to the Walt Disney World Resort. And it all begins with a Disney Parks Blog reader favorite – a 24-hour event at Magic Kingdom Park – during Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff to summer.

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Olaf, who is the official host of our “Coolest Summer Ever,” surprised Bostonians near historic Faneuil Hall with a 20-foot wide beach that included a Cinderella Castle made of sand, beach chairs, beach balls and other reminders of summer fun at Walt Disney World Resort. Check out how it all came together in the video below.

We’re kicking off the summer with an all-night party at the Walt Disney World Resort. Magic Kingdom Park will be open to guests for 24 hours of nonstop fun from 6 a.m.-6 a.m. May 22-23. Guests are invited to dress to show their Disney Side while a selection of favorite attractions, entertainment, merchandise, food and beverages will be on tap all night long to celebrate the start of the “Coolest Summer Ever” at Walt Disney World Resort.

For the “Coolest Summer Ever,” we’re already planning experiences you won’t want to miss. Here’s an early look at some of the highlights:

There’s more to come, so keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog or visit Disneyworld.com/CoolestSummerEver for future details and information.

Also, later this morning, Erin will be sharing a special announcement from Disneyland Resort right here on the blog.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Making a Difference – Rehabilitation and Release Success with Guam Rails

posted on March 4th, 2015 by Deidre Fontenot, DVM, Animal Health Operations Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


For over fifteen years, I, along with other members of Disney’s Animal Care team have been lending a helping hand on the beautiful pacific islands of the Marianas to save multiple species including the Guam rail. Native to this small island in the South Pacific, the Guam rail is a flightless, cocoa-colored bird with a striped underbelly that is extinct in the wild due to the accidental introduction of the brown tree snake onto the island. Since the Guam rail makes its nest on the ground, the snake can easily get to the birds’ eggs and chicks, causing the decline of the population in the wild.

Dr. Deidre with a Guam Rail A Guam Rail in the Wild

Thanks to efforts of institutions across the country that are accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), conservation work to increase Guam rail populations so that they can be released into the wild has been very successful. For years, Disney’s Animal Care team has sent veterinarians and animal care specialists to Guam to assist with the health care of this endangered species. We perform medical evaluations on the birds currently in Guam to make sure they are healthy prior to their introduction into the wild. We have had the honor of participating in the release of these birds on the neighboring island of Rota, where the brown tree snake has no presence. If any birds require serious medical care, they are flown to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for evaluation and surgery if needed. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we provide health evaluations to birds that are hatched at any AZA institution before these birds are flow to Guam for their participation in the re-introduction program, as part of a breeding population at a snake protected facility or as a part of the release populations on Rota. Disney’s Animal Care team typically spends two to three months with each bird while completing extensive health evaluations to make sure the birds are not only fit to travel back to Guam, but are ready to be released into the wild.

A Guam Rail Being Examined Before Release Into the Wild A Guam Rail Posing with Safari Mickey

Our efforts don’t stop there! The Disney team also provides continuous education and training to the island biologists regarding medical care of the birds and we donate veterinary supplies every visit. In hopes of extending the conservation of this species into the next generation, we also share information with local community children to help them learn about these unique birds and better understand why Disney cares about protecting them.

Thanks to the efforts of many in Guam, U.S. zoos and our teams here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Guam rails have been brought back from the brink of extinction!

While we hope Guam rails are most often found on their native island home, guests have the chance to learn about this and other rehabilitation successes of Disney’s Animal Care teams in Backstage Tales, the newest premium experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Call 407-WDW-TOUR for additional details.

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Bringing the World of AVATAR to Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 26th, 2015 by Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering


Since we first broke ground last year at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’ve been looking forward to welcoming guests into Pandora, the mythical land based on the blockbuster film AVATAR. We’re having a lot of fun dreaming up ways to bring to life the land’s iconic elements from the magnificent floating mountains to the interactive bioluminescent forest, and even to the soaring banshees.

This creative process has been one of the most dynamic and collaborative ones we’ve ever undertaken. It began when our then-Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts proposed to James Cameron that together we might recreate the world of Pandora at Disney. Since that time, our creative development team, led by Joe Rohde, has been working hand-in-hand with Jim, Jon Landau and their team of artists and designers at Lightstorm on every aspect of this project—from overall design to the smallest—yet crucially important—details. And along each step of this process, Tom, as well as Disney CEO Bob Iger have been actively involved in helping guide the creative vision that is shaping the extraordinary world we’re building.

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We all recently got together at our offices in Glendale, California and walked through the fantastic progress on the whole land—including the awesome experience of seeing Pandora while riding on a banshee.

When he was with us, Jim said, “I think one of the things that people loved about the movie is that they felt as if they had visited Pandora… now, thanks to Disney’s amazing Imagineers, people are going to truly experience Pandora firsthand. From the details in the plants to the production and design, extraordinary thought and care has gone into this entire world. The teams have really created something special, and it’s not going to be like anything else.”

This project is really pushing the boundaries of what is possible. But one of the things that makes Disney Parks so special is that it takes all of our Cast—across the segment—to really bring these experiences to life. We were glad to be able to share our work with the creative teams and thought you might want to see it, too. Here’s a sneak peek of what we showed them:



For previous AVATAR coverage, see these blog posts:

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#DisneyKids: Experience the Ultimate Day for Young Families VIP Tour

posted on February 26th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Carpe diem. Seize the day.

That’s exactly what you can do on an Ultimate VIP Tour. Imagine experiencing cherished attractions at three theme parks with fast-tracked access, private transportation and a Table-Service lunch in one of the parks, all in one day — accompanied by a cast member with detailed knowledge of Disney lore.

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I recently got the opportunity to go on The Ultimate Day for Young Families VIP Tour, one of two new offerings from VIP Tour Services (The Ultimate Day of Thrills being the other), so I of course jumped at the chance.

Tomorrowland Terrace at Magic Kingdom Park is the starting point for the tour. Tracy, our Tour Guide, handed out bottles of water to keep everyone hydrated and took lunch orders. From there, we headed to Magic Carpets of Aladdin to begin our journey. We hit some classics, including Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight, and newer highpoints like Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid. Then it was off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (yay Toy Story Midway Mania!), via private van, that included a yummy sit-down lunch at a reserved table. The tour ended on a high note at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with front row seats at Festival of the Lion King, about as close as you can get to this beloved Broadway-style show without being in it.

WDW Attractions Lifestyle Shoot

Entering via the FastPass+ lines made for minimal waiting. Tracy was also in constant contact with Brian, our coordinator, who stayed ahead to ensure everything went smoothly. Patient, personable and well versed in all things Disney, Tracy shared trivia, helpful hints and background information along the way, like giving Toy Story Midway Mania! point-scoring tips and pointing out a hidden Mickey in the flamingo pool on Kilimanjaro Safaris. What a fascinating window into the magic.

In all, we enjoyed 11 attractions in three parks — with plenty of sunshine left at the end to go exploring on our own — accomplishing a lot but never feeling rushed. A steady pace kept us on schedule. It’s a unique, specialized way to splurge on yourself and loved ones, especially if you’re pressed for time.

And though designed with mild thrills for families with children under 10 years old, don’t let the name fool you. The Ultimate Day for Young Families is not just for the little ones. In fact, Tracy said adults frequently enjoy the tour sans kids. In other words, everyone’s the right age. Because fun never goes out of style.

This unforgettable guided adventure (that feels intimate since there is one Tour Guide per every 10 people) through some of your kids’ (and your) favorites while spending less time in line is worth the memories. Heck, maybe you’ll discover something new in the process. I did. Okay, I admit it: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was a first for me. What a blast (pun intended)! No wonder it’s so popular.

The tour is offered Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays and lasts six to seven hours. Attractions and entertainment offerings subject to change. The cost is $299 per person, plus tax (theme park admission not included). Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations. You can also access the online VIP Tour Services brochure here for more info

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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrate Animals and Nature throughout the Year at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot

posted on February 25th, 2015 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


In addition to celebrating with us as at our Spring Forward event, don’t forget to mark your calendars for more fun wildlife and nature inspired events heading your way!

Earth Day/Party for the Planet: April 22
Back by popular demand – it’s a “Party for the Planet” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends where we will be hosting an Earth Day celebration. Discover how you can help animals by creating wildlife-friendly spaces in your backyard. Explore ways to protect and care for marine life through engaging activities. Learn more about sustainable living and how to make great choices every day to benefit both your family and our planet! Join us and don’t forget to grab your exclusive Earth Day 2015 merchandise.
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International Migratory Bird Day: May 9
Spring is all about the birds as we celebrate our winged friends on International Migratory Bird Day. Become an “honorary bird” and discover how you measure up in size and color to nearly 350 species of wild birds while also learning about the great care we provide for our birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Discover what the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is doing to ensure our skies stay filled with the many colored feathers of these amazing animals. From what they eat, to where they fly, you’ll learn all you care to know about birds—and that’s nothing to squawk at!

World Turtle Day: May 21
While visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in turtle life as you try on a replica turtle shell or get up-close with some of our turtles and tortoises including seeing our veterinarians in action with these unique animals. At The Seas with Nemo & Friends, discover how to help turtles overcome threats they face in the wild while taking part in hands-on activities that let you experience life as a turtle–all while turtles swim gracefully in the background throughout our 5.7-million-gallon aquatic habitat!
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Tour de Turtles: August 1
Hundreds of sea turtles lay their nests on the beaches of Florida every year and on this special day we invite you to join us at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort for the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles” event. Two turtles who have made their nests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will be equipped with satellite transmitters which allow sea turtle fans to follow the marathon migration of these turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. The turtles had been fitted with satellite transmitters to help with conservation efforts as they swim to raise awareness about the threats that sea turtles face. Join us for the race to the ocean where you can participate in beachside activities while learning ways you can help sea turtles!
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Keep an eye out for these events and more! Here are a few more dates to look forward to:

  • World Oceans Day: June 3
  • Pollinator Day: June 11
  • Big Cat Day: July 30
  • Primate Day: August 20
  • Elephant and Rhino Day: September 24
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