Via Napoli Restaurant, Italy Pavilion at Epcot

Special Edition Wildlife Wednesday: What Are We Thankful For? You! – Thank You for Contributing to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund!

posted on November 26th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Recently, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) was thrilled to announce its 2014 grant recipients. With this announcement DWCF surpassed $25 million awarded to nonprofits working to conserve wildlife and connect kids and families with nature. As we enter a season full of thanks and giving for many, we want to take a moment to thank you! Matched by Disney, your contributions to DWCF at Disney Parks and Resorts, Disney Cruise Line and Disney Vacation Club, are directly contributing to protecting animals and their habitats, and helping children all over the world have nature experiences. Not only do we thank you, the grant recipients thank you as well. Here are a few notes from recipients expressing gratitude for the conservation efforts made possible by your contributions.

The Marine Mammal Center: Mahalo!!! This is such wonderful news – especially as we just celebrated the opening and blessing of the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital and were joined by 150 members of the community, government, funders, and volunteers in Kona last week. And as we just sent off the first four young Hawaiian monk seal patients healthy back to the ocean – before our facility was built these four seals would have been left with no hope of survival. It is an exciting time of hope and possibility in the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal. Thank you so much for your support!

Project: Hawaiian Monk Seal Healthcare Project

The Purple Martin Conservation Association: This is most wonderful news and on behalf of our purple martin conservation team we express our deep thanks for your support of our project. We look forward to working together with Disney to make important progress in the conservation of declining populations of purple martins.

Project: Connecting Songbird Conservation Across Hemispheres

Hawaiian Monk Seals at The Marine Mammal Center Tagged Purple Martin at The Purple Martin Conservation Association

SAVE THE FROGS!: This is amazing news! Thank you so much to you all and to Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for your support of our amphibian conservation programs in West Africa.

Project: Saving Ghana’s Endangered Squeaker Frog

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The Jane Goodall Institute: Thank you so much for this wonderful news. Having Disney’s support of the Jane Goodall Institute and our Mandrill Reintroduction Project is greatly appreciated. Releasing rehabilitated mandrills back into the wild is so important, not only for the individuals themselves, but also for the surrounding ecosystem. They are important contributors to their local biodiversity and their presence has a positive spillover effect on other threatened wildlife. Again, thank you to everyone at Disney for your support.

Project: Release of Wild Born Mandrills

Sea to Shore Alliance: Thank you so much to all of you at DWCF for this fantastic news! We are extremely honored to be funded for the seventh year in a row, and we know our African manatee collaborators, whose projects benefit so greatly from your grants, are very grateful as well. We look forward to sharing more news and photos with you soon.

Project: African Manatee Research and Conservation

Every $1 in guest donations is matched by The Walt Disney Company and awarded to nonprofits to support conservation projects around the world. By contributing to the DWCF, guests are making a meaningful difference in conserving species all over the world. To see more projects visit Disney.com/conservation and click on the Google Earth application.

Happy Holidays!

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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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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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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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Making a Greener Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on October 10th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is one of the most anticipated events of the year here at the Disney Parks. It’s a guest favorite and loads of fun. But are you aware of all the eco-friendly efforts that go on behind the scenes?

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Lawrence Whiteside of Magic Kingdom Environmental/Recycling recently shared with the Disney Parks Blog what goes into this green endeavor and why they do it.

“For the last 13 years, the MK Recycle Team and its partners have committed to support our corporate goals and standards. I hope our actions provide a deeper knowledge and understanding of our environmental efforts, and to also inspire others to take action and make even more of a difference.”

Conservation at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is serious business. For instance, some of the initiatives during last year’s party included recycling 25,000 cardboard boxes and 500 pounds of shrink wrap, salvaging Craisin boxes to store over 3,000 pounds of scrap electronics and repurposing “Monsters University” cardboard boxes to help out with the Toys for Tots drive.

The due diligence of the MK Recycle Team during this event just keeps getting greener, according to Lawrence.

“Our environmental successes and stories are a rich part of our history and a key focus of our growth. We not only recycle on stage but, through a collaborative effort, recycling happens backstage to reduce waste and our carbon footprint.”

The Walt Disney Company has a longstanding tradition of corporate citizenship. From providing children’s environmental education programs to pledges to reduce energy and waste consumption on property, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’s goals fall right in line with this environmental stewardship.

So, while you’re enjoying Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade, your favorite spooktacular Disney characters, the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular and all the rest of the festivities, maybe you can take a moment to consider the concentrated effort put forth to giving back to Mother Earth.

Though he was speaking specifically of the U.S.A., Walt Disney’s words of wisdom could easily be applied to the big picture: “Its preservation and the wise conservation of its renewable resources concerns every man, woman and child whose possession it is.”

Lawrence echoes those sentiments. “Personally, I think everybody needs to play a role in preserving our planet,”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Did you know … ?

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

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

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

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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!

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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!

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