Halloween at the Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Baby Sea Turtles Hatch from Anna & Elsa’s Nests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort!

posted on October 1st, 2014 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Three months ago, we shared the story of two loggerhead sea turtles that lumbered ashore under the cover of darkness to lay their eggs on the beach by Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Lots of sea turtles nest like this elsewhere in Florida, but these two particular turtles are special. As you might have guessed, this was our first introduction to Anna and Elsa, our two loggerhead turtle princesses!

Anna and Elsa, Our Two Loggerhead Turtle Princesses Anna and Elsa, Our Two Loggerhead Turtle Princesses

Anna and Elsa made their debut the following morning at Olaf’s Beach Party as Disney’s Vero Beach Resort team hosted an annual Tour de Turtles event! After being outfitted with satellite transmitters so that researchers can continue to track their movements, Anna and Elsa ‘let it go’ and began their trek back to the ocean. Both turtles, along with the other turtle competitors in this year’s Tour de Turtles, are swimming to raise awareness about the threats that sea turtles face. Anna is raising awareness about artificial light pollution on nesting beaches, and Elsa is raising awareness about plastic debris littering our oceans. Is Anna following her big sister, Elsa, just as she did in Disney’s Frozen? Check out tourdeturtles.org to see where they are now!

A few months have passed since we bid farewell to Anna and Elsa as they began their migratory journey to their foraging grounds. Meanwhile, many sea turtle nests are scattered across the beach, quietly incubating under the surface of the sand. Loggerhead sea turtle nests contain an average of 115 ping pong ball sized eggs. (The photo below depicts a life size model shown at this year’s event.) Both Anna and Elsa’s nests hatched during the past week, and we are happy to report some great news!

kpwtab283745

As the younger sister, Anna is a smaller turtle. Her nest had 72 eggs, 68 of which resulted in little hatchlings that successfully made it to the ocean. (The photo below shows Disney sea turtle biologists counting the eggshells after Anna’s nest hatched.) That means that 94% of Anna’s hatchlings were successful, just like their brave mother! (If we’re giving out letter grades, she gets an ‘A+’ for ‘Anna’ and the success of her hatchlings, of course.) Elsa, the big sister to Anna, produced a larger nest of 127 eggs, of which 115 hatched! Elsa even returned two weeks after Tour de Turtles to nest again on our beach, and that nest is still incubating. We’re thrilled that both Anna and Elsa’s nests were so successful. Please join us in wishing the little hatchlings the best of luck as they begin their first big adventure in the ‘big ol’ blue’!

Disney Sea Turtle Biologists Counting the Eggshells After Anna’s Nest Hatched Sea Turtle Hatchlings at Disney's Vero Beach Resort

On your next trip to the beach, you can help sea turtles like Anna and Elsa. Thousands of sea turtles accidentally swallow plastic debris that travels to the ocean through storm drains or flies from landfills, mistaking the small pieces for food. Pick up litter and you might save a turtle’s life!

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

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.
kbfada837465

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.

ONP696844

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.
cuokbg263748

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!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

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.

WWH897

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.

WWH543

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

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) Announces 2014 Grant Recipients & Surpasses $25 Million Granted

posted on September 10th, 2014 by Kim Sams, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Conservation Programs, The Walt Disney Company


If you’ve recently enjoyed a Disney visit, you probably had the opportunity to support the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). There are plenty of ways you may have contributed – adding a dollar to your purchase, picking up a sponsored pin or plush item, enjoying the Wild Africa Trek excursion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or snorkeling at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Every donation, big or small, adds up and is combined with support from Disney, which in turn has given all of us something amazing to celebrate.

Including the 141 grants being awarded this week, we have contributed more than $25 million dollars to study wildlife, protect habitats and develop community conservation and education programs across the globe and here in Florida.

This week, our office shared the good news with more than 100 nonprofit organizations who will divide $3.5 million dollars in 2014 conservation grants to support projects benefiting wildlife and habitats spanning five continents –from lions in Tanzania and elephants in China to giant armadillos in Brazil and monk seals in Hawaii. To see a list of all the 2014 DWCF grant recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

DWCF-2014-Funded-Projects

Today the world is losing species at up to 10,000 times the natural rate, which makes doing what we can to protect the wonder of nature more important than ever. Thank YOU for joining us as we work with experts to reverse the decline of threatened species around the globe and build the next generation of conservationists.

What inspires you to protect the planet?

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Programs Nutrition Team Prepares Hundreds of Meals Each Day

posted on September 3rd, 2014 by Eduardo Valdes, PhD., Animal Nutrition Operations Manager


In the early morning hours, while many of us are fast asleep, the Animal Nutrition Team is busy preparing and delivering balanced and individual diets for over 2,000 animals at Walt Disney World Resort.

The job of an animal nutritionist and the Nutrition Team is quite involved as they work to assess the diet of each animal based on various data including weight, physiological stage of the animal, food sensitivities, animal health and food options available to prepare the diets, among others. Every animal has a diet sheet, but diets might be adjusted and supplements (like vitamins to humans) are added depending on the specific needs of the animal.

ANC9768653

The Animal Nutrition Team works with partners around the world to continuously assess diet options and aid in research. The research data gathered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been used to help improve around 18 animal nutrition products regularly used by the zoo community today.

PRT707074

Some of the research is actually helping conserve endangered animals like the Puerto Rican Crested Toad that can be found at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Nutrition data and best practices in caring for the parents and tadpoles are gathered and noted for future generations. Then, twice a year, tadpoles are sent back to Puerto Rico to be released and continue increasing numbers in the wild.

You can learn more about animal nutrition from a member of our team on your next visit to Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Welcome a Sumatran Tiger to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on August 20th, 2014 by Jill Piltz, Zoological Manager-Primate and Carnivore Team


Sohni is a name of Hindi origin which means beautiful. This is certainly a fitting name for the newest tiger that can be seen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, a self-guided walking tour set in the land of Asia.

The Maharajah Jungle Trek is home to many different species including komodo dragons, birds, bats and hoof-stock. Until very recently only one species of tiger could be found on this trail, but with Sohni’s arrival comes increased diversity in the form of a Sumatran tiger, a species that is only found in the wild on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. To help you identify the difference, remember that Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the tiger subspecies. Females weigh between 165 – 242 lbs. and males weigh between 220 – 310 lbs.

WLW803485048

Human population growth has dramatically reduced the tigers’ natural habitat. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered and it is estimated that there are fewer than 500 individuals left in the wild. You can help protect tigers and many other species by supporting conservation organizations through contributions or volunteering.
You can learn more about tigers including Sohni on your next visit, but until then here are a few tiger fun facts:

  • Tigers mark their territory with visual signals, such as scratches on a tree or on the ground, and chemical signals, such a spraying a tree with urine and scent gland secretions.
  • Tigers can be extremely swift for short distances, running 30 to 35 mph, and can leap impressive distances averaging 13 feet.
  • Tigers seem to enjoy water and can swim well. They use rivers and lakes to seek relief from the heat and to catch fish.
  • Tigers are carnivores and are the top predators in their ecosystem. A male tiger in the wild requires nearly 3 tons of food per year.
Wildlife Wednesday: One of These Is Not Like the Other – Welcome a Sumatran Tiger to Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Wildlife Wednesday: One of These Is Not Like the Other – Welcome a Sumatran Tiger to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) supports local and global nonprofit organizations that address the planet’s most urgent conservation issues including tigers around the world. In spring 2013, the DWCF supported an emergency request to assist the rehabilitation of orphaned tiger cubs in Russia. For more information and an update on the tigers supported in this project, check out the video on IFAW’s website.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating Shark Conservation for Shark Week

posted on August 13th, 2014 by Kim Sams, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Conservation Programs, The Walt Disney Company


Summer is usually the time of year that we hear a lot about sharks! Whether it’s a news segment showing aerial video of sharks swimming off popular Florida beaches or a week dedicated to celebrating these unique animals, sharks continue to inspire wonder and capture our imaginations.

Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating Shark Conservation for Shark Week. Photo Credit: Neil Hammerschlag, R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, University of Miami Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating Shark Conservation for Shark Week. Photo Credit: Neil Hammerschlag, R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, University of Miami

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) is committed to protecting sharks and the marine habitats where they live. Since 1995 the DWCF has:

  • Contributed more than $6.3 million to projects focused on conserving marine ecosystems and wildlife.
  • Supported 27 projects working to protect sharks and rays worldwide.
  • Funded organizations like Conservation International, Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of Florida to advance shark conservation and engage communities in their protection.

Our team recently had the opportunity to visit one of the shark conservation projects the DWCF has supported since 2011 with the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program. This program is an outstanding example of the kind of projects funded through the DWCF’s annual conservation grant program. The research of University of Miami’s faculty, students and volunteers focuses on several shark species in the Atlantic Ocean and is both advancing our understanding and providing leverage to better protect these iconic animals. The program is also a fantastic example of inspiring the next generation of conservationists, and last year brought more than 1,000 students along on their research trips to learn about and participate in shark conservation first-hand! We are happy to debut a video of this great program and thank the many guests whose DWCF contributions have helped initiatives like these.

Interested in discovering more about sharks during your next visit to Walt Disney World Resort? Stop by The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot where you might find Blacknose, Sandbar and Sand Tiger sharks alongside several different types of rays. You can take a photo with Bruce from “Finding Nemo” and explore a maze filled with fun facts about sharks. You can also talk to educators to learn more about these animals, the threats they are facing and how you can be a shark conservationist through simple actions like contributing to the DWCF!

Happy Shark Week!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , ,

Filed: Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: On Your Mark, Get Set… Let Them Go! – Sea Turtles Set Off On Migratory Journey

posted on July 30th, 2014 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


This past weekend, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort hosted the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles” event which allows sea turtle fans to follow the marathon migration of 12 sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds.

This year, Olaf’s summer dream in the Academy Award winning Disney Animation Studios film “Frozen” inspired us to feature him in our event and name the turtles after his friends Anna and Elsa. The morning began as each loggerhead sea turtle was outfitted with a satellite transmitter. Now that the females have finished nesting for the season, it is time for them to head to their foraging grounds so that they can begin feasting on those tasty crustaceans. The transmitters allow us to track the path to Anna and Elsa’s favorite foraging grounds.

Wildlife Wednesday: On Your Mark, Get Set… Let Them Go! – Sea Turtles Set Off On Migratory Journey Wildlife Wednesday: On Your Mark, Get Set… Let Them Go! – Sea Turtles Set Off On Migratory Journey

As the “turtle safe” adhesive dried, guests had the opportunity to participate in various activities as they learned more about sea turtles and earned stamps for completed activities in their nature journal. Guests watched as Disney’s Animal Programs cast members conducted a nest inventory and counted the number of eggs in a recently hatched sea turtle nest; discovered ways they can help hatchlings including knocking down sand castles after they leave the beach, and realized how difficult it could be for a sea turtle to free itself if tangled in plastic debris.

Wildlife Wednesday: On Your Mark, Get Set… Let Them Go! – Sea Turtles Set Off On Migratory Journey Wildlife Wednesday: On Your Mark, Get Set… Let Them Go! – Sea Turtles Set Off On Migratory Journey

Each sea turtle involved in “Tour de Turtles” acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Sea turtle ‘Anna’ (sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort) is swimming to raise awareness about light pollution. Many don’t realize that bright beachfront lighting from buildings and flashlights from people walking on the beach can deter nesting turtles, draw hatchlings inland and prevent them from safely reaching the ocean. It’s important to close your curtains to prevent light from shining on the beach or using sea turtle-friendly fixtures that shield the light from the beach and never use a flashlight during sea turtle nesting season at night! Sea turtle ‘Elsa’ (sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund) is focused on the troubling amount of plastic debris in oceans around the world. The debris breaks into small pieces that are eaten by sea turtles and other marine wildlife, which causes the animals severe digestive troubles. Over the years, the consumption of this plastic debris has caused the deaths of over 100 million marine animals and floating marine debris can also lead to turtles becoming entangled in plastic, fishing line, nets and more. You can help by picking up litter, purchasing reusable grocery bags, recycling, and not releasing balloons.

Youth from the local Boys & Girls Club learned all about how scientists develop tracking devices to monitor sea turtle migration pattern in the ocean and had a front row seat to watch Anna and Elsa’s return to the ocean. Everyone wished Anna and Elsa well on their ocean journey and we look forward
to their return when they are ready to lay more eggs in two years. Check out the gallery below for more photos from the event!

You can cheer on Anna, Elsa and other turtles that are part of Tour de Turtles by logging on to http://www.tourdeturtles.org/. You can track the migration paths of 4 species of sea turtles and learn more about sea turtle conservation.

Turtle2014 286

For more from the “Wildlife Wednesday” series, check out the posts below:

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: It’s Lovely Weather To Book A Sleigh Ride Together With You at Walt Disney World!

posted on July 23rd, 2014 by Mark Beatty, Worldwide Ranch Animal Operations Manager


Outside the snow isn’t falling, but friends are calling, “Yoo hoo… Now is the time to make your reservations!”

You may think it’s too early, but now is a great time to book your holiday sleigh ride at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground!

Wildlife Wednesday: It’s Lovely Weather To Book A Sleigh Ride Together With You at Walt Disney World! Wildlife Wednesday: It’s Lovely Weather To Book A Sleigh Ride Together With You at Walt Disney World!

Holiday sleigh rides begin on November 28th and run nightly through December 30th. Each sleigh holds up to 4 adults (or two adults and 3 children). The 25-minute sleigh ride is $70 per sleigh and includes 1 collector’s pin per reservation.

As we await the holiday season, the Tri-Circle-D Ranch offers plenty of year round activities to keep you busy. Guests over nine years old can enjoy a 45-minute horseback ride through Florida’s natural wilderness, and for the younger riders, pony rides are a great introduction to our 4-legged equine friends!

If you just can’t wait until the holiday season to relax, carriage rides are offered throughout the year at Disney’s Fort Wilderness and Campground and Port Orleans Resort!

Book your favorite equestrian activity by calling 407-WDW-Play!

For more from the “Wildlife Wednesday” series, check out the posts below:

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Is Helping Preserve Hisssss-tory

posted on July 16th, 2014 by Kim Sams, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Conservation Programs, The Walt Disney Company


“Happy World Snake Day!” is not something I ever imagined I would wish anyone, but after seeing first-hand the incredible work to bring one snake species back from near extinction, I am now a fan.

For 14 years, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has supported the Antiguan Racer Project. This multi-faceted conservation program is a partnership between the Environmental Awareness Group in Antigua (in the lower Caribbean) and Fauna & Flora International.

The Antiguan Racer is a very docile reptile which had been almost completed wiped out by the mongoose, a predator actually introduced to the island to manage the rat population. Since mongooses (or mongeese) are active during the day and rats are active at night, the mongoose didn’t actually complete the work for which it was introduced to the island. As the mongoose population grew (and the Antiguan Racer population decreased), overpopulation began to upset the delicate island ecosystem, and in this case, bird populations were affected as well. The dedicated people who run the program with support from Dr. Jenny Daltry explain this much better than I, so I hope you will take a few minutes to hear their story. Afterward, I think you, too, might celebrate snakes in a whole new light.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is supported by guest contributions at various merchandise locations throughout Disney Parks and Resorts, as well as aboard Disney Cruise Line. One hundred percent of donations are matched by The Walt Disney Company and directed to nonprofit organizations through the conservation awards process.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Walt Disney World Resort