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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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Wildlife Wednesday: When You Think of Elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. . . Think Big!

posted on July 2nd, 2014 by Kathy Lehnhardt, Curator of Education, Disney’s Animal Programs


Elephant care at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a big job! Elephants are intelligent, social, and complex animals so meeting all their care requirements means lots of work and dedication, especially when the herd consists of eight unique individuals to look after. Our Animal Care Team provides daily baths, facility cleaning, foot care, feeding, record keeping, advanced training and enrichment programs all completed in an environment that is safe for both elephants and people. Our Veterinarians are able to perform many medical procedures without tranquilization as a result of effective training, so the elephants actually assist in their own health care. And of course there is plenty of time for elephant social interactions in not one, but three large habitats spanning about seven acres.

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As you can imagine, elephants are big… really big! In fact, they are the largest land animal on our planet. But it’s hard to imagine just how big they are until you stand next to an African bull [male] elephant. Since this is an opportunity very few people have the chance to experience, the Elephant Care Team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom worked with Disney Imagineering to simulate the experience by adding three life-sized silhouettes of elephants on the elephant house:

1. An adult bull at 11 feet tall
2. An adult cow at 8 feet tall
3. A newborn calf at 3 feet tall

Guests participating in the Backstage Safari program now have the chance to safely measure themselves next to an elephant –an elephant silhouette that is – for a real height and size comparison. Day guests onboard the Wildlife Express Train at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can also view the elephant silhouettes as the train passes the backstage elephant house.

To further enhance the area and share our commitment to elephants, both at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and in the wild, the team also added an inscription to the elephant house that proudly declares: “Dedicated to Elephant Care and Conservation.”

Conserving elephants in the wild is also a big job! It is currently estimated that each day, 96 African elephants are killed for various reasons including their ivory tusks. Only by working together can we help protect elephants from illegal poaching.

Walt Disney said it best, “Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people, it’s a matter that concerns all of us … If we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife, and preserve our lakes and streams these things will last us for generations to come.”

To learn more about how you can get involved in elephant conservation, visit: www.elephantconservation.org, www.Savetheelephants.com or the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign, at www.96elephants.org.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Get Outside This Weekend by Participating in the Great American Backyard Campout

posted on June 25th, 2014 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


Summer is a perfect time to get outside and spend time exploring nature with friends and family. Whether you are here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom getting close to hippos on the Wild Africa Trek, discovering the Alaskan wilderness with Disney Cruise Line or spending time in your own local park, you are part of making the outdoors the new “in” place to be! Even Disney Channel star Olivia Holt is on board and spreading the word!

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At Disney we are committed to connecting families and kids with nature through both Disney experiences, as well as support for other nature-related resources. If you are looking for a fun way to get outside this weekend, you can join thousands of families across the country by taking the pledge to be part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout on June 28. In your own (or a neighbor’s) backyard, local park or campground, spend the evening together looking at the stars, telling campsite stories or making animal shadows in your tent with a flashlight. The Great American Backyard Campout site features great information to help get you started, from camping tips to things you may need on your camping trip. Make sure to check out the fun ideas for camping games and activities as well as tasty meal ideas and recipes to make the evening even better. And remember, your night under the stars can make a real difference for wildlife.

Wildlife Wednesday: Get Outside This Weekend by Participating in the Great American Backyard Campout Wildlife Wednesday: Get Outside This Weekend by Participating in the Great American Backyard Campout

Not only is it fun to spend time together outdoors, there are studies that show time in nature can help improve academic performance, promote imagination and creativity and even lead to better health and well-being! On top of that, you are helping inspire the next generation to care about the planet, leading to positive actions for nature as adults.

So check it out, get outside and have a wild time!

Want to learn more about how you can connect with nature and help people, communities and the planet? Spread the word by sharing this blog post with your friends and family. Learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts both locally and around the world at WDWnews.com/about/environment/ and Disney.com/conservation. Experience more of our conservation work by participating in our guest offerings, such as Wild Africa Trek and Backstage Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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‘It All Started With a Mouse’ at the New Animal Experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on June 18th, 2014 by Jerry Brown, Animal Operations Manager, Conservation Station, Disney’s Animal Kingdom


With so much to see and do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, planning ahead is the key to an action-packed, fun-filled day! One of the newest animal experience destinations, “It All Started with a Mouse,” is located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and makes a great addition to the itineraries of animal lovers of all ages.
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It All Started with a Mouse” showcases Walt Disney’s lifelong love of the animal world and his belief that “what everyone will learn who studies it is a renewed sense of kinship with the earth and all its inhabitants.”

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During the show, Conservation Station’s “animal ambassadors,” including sheep, parrots, porcupines, birds of prey and Kunekune pigs help tell stories and make appearances in, around, and even above the audience, as the cast members share natural history fun facts, conservation messages and inspiring (and fun) calls-to-action.
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After the show, guests have an exclusive opportunity to meet and talk to some of the stars of the show and are encouraged to capture once-in-a-lifetime memories with plenty of photographs.

When you plan your visit, allow at least 15 minutes of travel time to and from Rafiki’s Planet Watch via the Wildlife Express train and enjoy the 20-minute show which is currently performed once a day, at 11:30 a.m.
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During your visit to see the new show, don’t miss the chance to explore Conservation Station, the center of The Walt Disney Company’s global commitments to the environment and to animal conservation all around the world. It’s a great place to learn, laugh and leave believing as Walt Disney did that, “the wonders of nature are endless”!

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Wildlife Wednesdays: World Oceans Day Celebration June 4 at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot

posted on May 28th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


On June 4 at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, families can explore, learn and play with a host of special activities in celebration of World Oceans Day.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a sea turtle? Sea turtles face great odds to reach adulthood. See a life-sized replica of a sea turtle nest and learn how hatchlings start their journey, and experience a turtle excluder device, used on fishing boats to keep sea turtles from getting caught in fishing nets.

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Hey dudes and dudettes, you can lend a helping flipper to Crush’s and Squirt’s pals by adopting a sea turtle nest at The Seas. During nesting season, Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach for sea turtle nests. You can adopt one of these very special nests and follow the status of the hatchlings online. Receive an adoption certificate complete with the date of adoption, the date the nest was laid, the species of sea turtle, and the nest number so you can track the nest online, as well as a Squirt keychain and a Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund hero button. The adoption fee goes to sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida.

You can meet animal care and other experts from The Seas. Talk with these experts about their roles and their day-to-day activities.

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Learn about coral reefs and the critical role they play in our oceans. Did you know that although coral reefs encompass only about 0.2% of the area on our planet, they are home to 25% of the world’s marine animals? These rainforests of the ocean are in danger of extinction due to nutrient pollution and ocean acidification. The Disney’s Animal Programs team at The Seas is committed to coral reef restoration and is currently working on a project in Abaco, The Bahamas. You can talk with Disney scientists and learn about the work they are doing.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund also is helping coral reefs by funding critical projects like one by the Coral Restoration Foundation, which is helping to engage communities in the protection of threatened coral populations in the Florida Keys. Take a look at the video:

On World Oceans Day, and every day, it’s important to remember that no matter where we live we are all connected to the oceans—any action we take that reduces waste (including recycling everything possible), saves water or keeps it clean, protects ocean wildlife or reduces emissions helps our oceans.
Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Can You Name These Animals? Hint: They’re All at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or The Seas with Nemo & Friends

posted on May 21st, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 International Day for Biological Diversity. Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot experience amazing biological diversity in the various species of animals that make their homes here.

Below are photos of just six of these animals. Can you identify them? Answers are at the bottom of the post.

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Each of us can help to protect the biological diversity of our planet through our everyday actions. Any action that reduces waste, saves water or keeps it clean, or reduces emissions can help make the world a better place for wildlife and all of us. For information on Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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