Yakitori House Restaurant at Epcot

Wildlife Wednesday: ‘Science rules!’ in the Newly Renovated and Renamed Science Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on November 19th, 2014 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


Science fans might recognize the quote in the title from the theme song of television show Bill Nye, the Science Guy. The popular educational show showcased science topics through interactive, applied science projects. Bill Nye, the Science Guy was for TV what the newly renovated Science Center is for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Like the show, applied science is exactly what Guests will have the opportunity to see and learn about as one of the many subjects showcased in the area.

You might be thinking, isn’t this WILDLIFE Wednesday? What does applied science have to do with wildlife?… Much more than you think!

Wildlife Wednesday: ‘Science rules!’ in the Newly Renovated and Renamed Science Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesday: ‘Science rules!’ in the Newly Renovated and Renamed Science Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Science Center, previously known as the Wildlife Tracking Center, is home to the Science Operations team – a team of scientists and animal care professionals who partner with various teams within Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, to provide outstanding care for the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The new name reflects this as a location that is fun, interactive and inspiring, highlighting science using applied means, which is precisely what the Science Operations team is all about. Guests have the opportunity to view behavioral husbandry cast members coordinating animal training and enrichment programs, animal behavior scientists analyzing behavioral data, endocrinologists monitoring pregnancies and hormone cycles of animals within the park, and/or the population biologist working on animal management plans that help us determine which animals should be put together for breeding.

Wildlife Wednesday: ‘Science rules!’ in the Newly Renovated and Renamed Science Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesday: ‘Science rules!’ in the Newly Renovated and Renamed Science Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

You might be able to find Bill Nye, the Science Guy in a science classroom near you, but the science experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can be found working in their lab at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. We hope to see you soon!

Did you know that…?

  • Members of the Science Operations team have published dozens of scientific articles advancing the field of zoo animal care.
  • Since Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, endocrinologists in the Science Center have conducted over 100,000 hormone tests!
  • The behavioral husbandry cast members on the Science Operations team coordinate the training of animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as tiny as a mouse to as tall as a giraffe.
  • Not only are members of the Science Operations team working to take care of the animals here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but they also are working to promote the conservation of species in their natural habitats, including gorillas, Micronesian kingfishers, and coral reefs.
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Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarin Conservation Projects Earn Prestigious Award for Environmental Protection in Colombia!

posted on November 12th, 2014 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Hola desde Colombia! Avid Disney Parks Blog readers may be familiar with the cotton-top tamarin pair that recently moved into a new home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While the pair delights guests and enjoys their new home, they also serve as animal ambassadors for cotton-top tamarins that live in their native tropical forest home in Colombia. Members of Disney’s Animal Programs have been working with Proyecto Tití in Colombia on a long-term conservation program to protect Colombia’s critically endangered primate. For the past 20+ years, Proyecto Tití and Disney have worked together to not only study wild cotton-top tamarins in the forests of Colombia, but we have helped to develop education programs for rural communities to teach about the importance of protecting cotton-tops and their forest homes and, most importantly, working with communities to develop sustainable income-generating programs so that they can reduce their dependency on forest products. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has also helped to support Proyecto Tití by helping to support the first conservation center dedicated to cotton-top tamarin conservation, awarding Felix Medina as a 2013 Conservation Hero, and providing emergency funding to help stop a fire that was spreading to the forests where our long-term field site is located earlier this year.

I am pleased to share exciting news on behalf of this organization that is so near and dear to my heart. Caracol, the largest television network in Colombia, recently announced the winners of their prize for Protecting the Environment in Colombia, and Proyecto Tití won first place!

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More than 90 organizations applied in two categories – programs led by local communities and those led by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). After selecting Proyecto Tití as one of five finalists, the expert selection committee visited the field site in Santa Catalina and had the opportunity to go into the forest to meet the cotton-tops for the first time in their lives! After their trip to the forest, the committee visited the community of Los Limites where they met the artisans that create the beautiful eco-mochilas and plush cotton-top tamarins toys. The artisans shared how they have been able to start their own businesses and how having a stable source of income has reduced the need to consume forest resources. The last stop for the judges was without a doubt the most impactful. It was when they met the students who have been part of the CARTITILLA, and other education efforts, that they really saw the difference that Proyecto Tití has made in Colombian communities. They couldn’t believe how passionate and dedicated the students are to protecting cotton-tops!

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At the awards ceremony, Felix Medina, a member of the Proyecto Tití team since it began, was overcome with emotion saying, “I remember how difficult it was when we first began working with cotton-tops, but we didn’t give up, we kept on moving forward and now our work has been recognized for its importance in saving cotton-tops. This is the best day for me and for cotton-tops!” Juan Manuael Beltran, Corporate Responsibility Advisor to Caracol shared, “There was no doubt who should win this award. Proyecto Titi’s long-term efforts to bring national and international attention to cotton-top tamarins, their education programs and their income generating programs for local communities, are a model for organizations to use in establishing conservation programs that are effective in Colombia …”

As part of the first place prize, Caracol will provide Proyecto Tití an amazing opportunity to share its story with their viewers and inspire everyone in Colombia to join us in saving cotton-top tamarins! I’ve studied these little monkeys for over 20 years. It brings me great joy to work with the Proyecto Tití team and share this exciting achievement with them!

Check out the photo gallery for more great photos from Colombia!

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Comfort Food Hidden Gems at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on November 10th, 2014 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


As the weather cools down, I begin to crave comfort food. We all have a favorite food that is as satisfying as it is nostalgic—Walt Disney himself adored chili with beans. Some of the best memories are made around the dinner table, and I can’t think of a better way to make memories with family than sharing comfort food at Walt Disney World Resort. Here are a few of my favorite tastes of home from across property:

Chicken Pot Pie from Columbia Harbour House at Magic Kingdom Park Seafood Mac & Cheese from Columbia Harbour House at Magic Kingdom Park

From my childhood in Wisconsin, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of comfort food is ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese. At Columbia Harbor House in Magic Kingdom Park, they’ve upped the ante at dinnertime by adding lobster and shrimp to their macaroni and cheese. Also on the dinner menu is the piping hot chicken pot pie, filled with tender white-meat chicken, vegetables and gravy and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs.

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Just a monorail ride away is Contempo Café at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which offers a savory beef pot roast with seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy. Available only at dinner, it’s just like mom used to make. Contempo Café also recently added some new flatbread pizzas to their menu. My pick would have to be the smoked pulled pork flatbread, topped with barbecue sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and vegetable-style slaw.

Chicken and Waffles from ESPN Club BBQ Grilled Cheese Sandwich from ESPN Club

Head over to ESPN Club at Disney’s BoardWalk for chicken and waffles with a kick—jalapeno-cornmeal waffles topped with buttermilk fried chicken and Angry Maple chicken gravy. Brand new on the menu is a barbecue pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich served on thick-cut brioche. Trust me, it’s as good as it sounds.

Loaded Baked Potato

Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter is serving up four new loaded baked potato meals, each served with a side of soup or salad. Choose from a baked potato topped with one of the following: barbecued pork; broccoli, cheddar, and bacon; chili and cheese; or chicken, bacon, and cheddar. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong.

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Comfort food isn’t just for dinner. At Kusafiri Bakery in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll find this Colossal Mickey-shaped cinnamon roll, which can easily serve two. Drizzled with caramel sauce and icing, to share or not to share is the only question you’ll have.

What’s your favorite Disney Parks food to eat when the weather cools?

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

New Animated Magic Shots Add Extra Disney Magic to Your Photos

posted on November 7th, 2014 by Marie Quintero, Marketing & Communications Manager, Disney PhotoPass Service


Guests visiting Walt Disney World Resort can now have some Disney animation added to their memories and it is all part of Memory Maker!

When visiting one of the locations listed below, simply ask a Disney PhotoPass Photographer for an Animated Magic Shot.

When you visit MyDisneyPhotoPass.com you’ll be surprised to find that we have applied animation to your photo featuring a Disney character.

As part of your Memory Maker entitlement you’ll be able to download the video file of your Animated Magic Shot to post online and share with friends.

Also, be on the lookout for special Animated Magic Shots coming this holiday season to Magic Kingdom Park and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights. I’ll share a sneak peek of those with you soon.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Announces 2014 Disney Conservation Heroes

posted on November 5th, 2014 by Kim Sams, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Conservation Programs, The Walt Disney Company


This year, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund proudly honors 19 individuals from around the world with the Disney Conservation Hero Award. Each is recognized for their dedication to wildlife and wild places with a medal and a $1,500 award to share with the nonprofit organization that nominated them. These recipients are often the backbone of critical conservation efforts, protecting animals ranging from terrapins to monkeys to snow leopards, and employing various innovative methods to educate and engage communities. What they all share is a passion for nature and drive to share their enthusiasm with others.

Here are a few of their stories:

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Jackson Kabuyaya Mbeke (nominated by the Houston Zoo and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center) has dedicated his life to protecting highly endangered Grauer’s gorillas in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with GRACE. Even amidst armed conflict in the DRC, Jackson, a veterinary technician, kept the vision of GRACE alive to care for gorillas orphaned by poaching so they could live a better life, and one day be reintroduced to the wild. Today, Jackson manages all the Congolese staff at GRACE, who care for 14 gorillas, and helps to direct GRACE’s conservation education and community outreach initiatives. Jackson, along with his wife Denise and their 11 children, act as conservation ambassadors and work to encourage their community to help protect DRC’s wildlife and the forests that they all share.

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Claudia Perla (nominated by Paso Pacifico) tirelessly scrambles up steep cliffs to study the endangered black-handed spider monkey in Nicaragua, where she has gained a reputation in the community for her hard work and grit. As a young female forester, Claudia has persevered through various set-backs and represents the future of conservation in Nicaragua. Her extensive knowledge of the black-handed spider monkey and passion for native forests will be integral to ensuring a better future for this endangered primate and her country.

Photo by Sergei Spitsyn

Once a hunter of the very animals he now works to protect, Mergen Markov (nominated by The Altai Project/Earth Island Institute) risked his family’s livelihood as the first participant in a local program to turn poachers into wildlife protectors. In a remote Russian village, a six-hour journey from the nearest paved road, Mergen confiscates snares, educates fellow hunters, and uses camera traps to monitor snow leopard populations. Since this work began four years ago, the number of snares in the area has decreased by more than 80 percent and the population of snow leopards has grown from just two cats to at least six as of September 2014!

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Sue Robertson (nominated by the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association) has been maintaining and monitoring American kestrel nest boxes for more than 40 years at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. During her lifelong commitment to kestrels, she estimates that she has banded more than 3,000 birds. She also uses the American kestrel as a model species to talk to school groups about wildlife conservation and has mentored hundreds of trainees from around the world. Recently, Sue participated in the development of the American Kestrel Partnership, which has more than 650 partners and monitors more than 2,000 nests to better protect the species.

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The Storm Drain Terrapin Rescue Team, championed by Joe Grotolla, and Steve and Susan Ahern, (nominated by The Wetlands Institute) has been crucial in the success of diamondback terrapin (turtle) conservation in New Jersey. They discovered that storm drains may pose a significant threat to terrapin hatchlings that get lost in the maze-like networks the storm drains form. The team took action to reduce the potential impacts, working on a volunteer basis to rescue the terrapins, raising money for terrapin conservation and engaging local school children in the efforts. To date the team has rescued and released nearly 5,000 terrapins!

All of these individuals, in addition to the 14 other award recipients, are true conservation heroes working every day to protect the planet. Visit www.disney.com/conservation to read more about all of the 2014 Heroes and remember you can make a difference, too!

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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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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, MagicBands, My Disney Experience, MyMagic+, Walt Disney World Resort

#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.

Cotton-top Tamarin Draco at Disney's Animal Kingdom Cotton-top Tamarin Gemma at Disney's Animal Kingdom

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.

Cotton-top Tamarin Exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Cotton-top Tamarin Exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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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