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

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


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

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

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

  • World Oceans Day: June 3
  • Pollinator Day: June 11
  • Big Cat Day: July 30
  • Primate Day: August 20
  • Elephant and Rhino Day: September 24
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Wildlife Friday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd!

posted on February 20th, 2015 by Robyn Johnson, Zoological Manager, Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Our baby boom continues! Join us in saying, “Afya njema!” to wish the newest baby at Disney’s Animal Kingdom “good health” in Swahili. Earlier this month, a white rhino, also a first-time mom born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2005, gave birth to a healthy baby boy! The new baby’s grandmother was also born at the park and regularly roams the savannahs of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, making this new calf the third generation of white rhinos born here.

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The new mom is being appropriately protective of her son, but our animal care team has been keeping up with mother and child to assure that both are thriving!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd

Despite their name, white rhinos are actually grey in color and sport two horns on their large head. These horns are made of fibrous keratin, just like our fingernails. While rhinos have good hearing and sense of smell, they have poor vision and cannot discern a motionless person at a distance of more than 100 feet.

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Native to central and southern Africa, the white rhino loves grassy areas and will graze several times a day. This mild-mannered animal usually keeps its family group small and tightly-knit. Rhinos are born weighing up to 143 pounds. (Talk about a big baby!) Fully grown females will grow to be anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds while adult males can be up to 5,000 pounds.

This new rhino calf is the ninth white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and we are happy to see our herd of rhinos continue to grow. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in the wild. Last year, rhinos faced the worst poaching in history, leaving the northern white rhino extinct in the wild. Its cousin in the south, appropriately named the southern white rhino, is severely endangered and without continued conservation efforts, will meet the same fate.

Several cast members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are board members for the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and work closely in efforts to help protect rhinos in the wild. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) also contributes to rhino conservation, research and habitat protection projects for rhinos throughout the world. As a guest, there are plenty of ways you may have contributed—adding a dollar to your purchase, picking up a sponsored pin or merchandise 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.

The celebration of our newest baby birth will continue for months to come and be sure to look for both mom and baby to join the rest of the herd on the savannahs of Kilimanjaro Safaris over the next few months.

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Wildlife Thursday: Animals Celebrated Valentine’s Day with Festive and Delicious Treats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 19th, 2015 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


Love was definitely in the air last weekend at the Walt Disney World Resort! While many of us spent quality time with the ones we love, our animal care teams did the same as they shared Valentine’s Day with the animals that call Disney’s Animal Kingdom home. The teams created unique holiday themed enrichment to highlight the animals’ natural behaviors.

Enrichment is a key part of the animal care program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It enables animals to make choices about their environment and encourages natural behaviors. Enrichment also allows guests to see the cool adaptations that help the animals survive!

We wanted to share just a few of the many creative enrichment ideas these folks came up with!

At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, our Rabbit Received a Special Strawberry and Oatmeal Valentine Treat. + This Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Received a Special Delivery Valentine Heart Filled with Edible Treats. At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, our Rabbit Received a Special Strawberry and Oatmeal Valentine Treat. + This Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Received a Special Delivery Valentine Heart Filled with Edible Treats.

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Did you know…?

  • You can enrich the lives of wildlife and encourage natural behaviors in your own backyard by adding a bird bath, native plants, log piles and bird houses. Then, sit back and enjoy the fun of watching the wildlife up close!
  • To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation!

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Wildlife Thursday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes 5 Sable Antelope Calves to the Herd!

posted on February 19th, 2015 by Steve Castillo, Animal Operations Manager, Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Hongera! That’s a Swahili word that means “Congratulations!” We are proud to announce that our sable antelope herd at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has nearly doubled in size as we welcome not one, not two, but five new sable antelope calves! Our team on the Savannah has been very busy caring for the family and closely monitoring the multiple births of three males and two females that all took place between December and January. Some of the sables are first-time mothers, so we now have three growing generations within our herd! (Congratulations to mothers and grandmothers alike!)

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Our animal care team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is keeping up with the calves’ rapid growth by examining the baby sables’ progress with periodic weight check-ins and observations of nursing, while the adult male keeps a close watch. When the calves aren’t nursing, they love to sunbath and explore!

Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Sables are born with a short, glossy and sandy brown coat that will darken with age. Sable antelopes have white markings on their faces, bellies and bottoms with a black mane and dark tail tuft. Once they start to grow horns, their horns will be long and curvy and can grow up to five feet in length! Sables love to graze for most of their day. In the wild, they are usually found in dry, open woodlands with lots of tall grass in the southern parts of Africa. While the sable antelope does not stand very tall (just over four and a half feet on average), they have strong, sturdy legs, a thick neck and adult males can weigh over 500 pounds!

Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom

In regards to their population and conservation status in the wild, sable antelopes are commonly labeled as “of least concern.” However, they are notably diminishing and are considered conservation dependent. This means the sable antelope population requires our conservation efforts for survival. Since we are responsible for protecting these beautiful animals, all breeding efforts are coordinated through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP is meant to strengthen long-term species survival efforts by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals.

Since the sable antelope’s primary threats are loss of habitat and human encroachment conflicts, it’s our responsibility to help keep them safe in the wild. If we discontinue any efforts that affect them, their numbers will dwindle to extinction.

Through guest contributions to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), we have supported projects like ecosystem monitoring and human-wildlife conflict mitigation that can benefit sable antelope and maintain their numbers in the wild. At home, recycling and bringing awareness to your community that animals like sable antelopes need us to survive can help immensely! Learn more about what you can do at Disney.com/conservation.

Be sure to come welcome the new sables in early April when the whole herd will make their public debut on the spacious Kilimanjaro Safaris savannah!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Learn How to Protect Wildlife March 5 at the ‘Spring Forward’ Event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 4th, 2015 by Erin Gallagher, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


Happy New Year everyone! (Can you believe it’s already February?)

In my role as an Education Manager for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, I have the opportunity to help coordinate fun animal awareness events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We have plenty of exciting events and celebrations coming up this year, so stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more details on 2015 events!

The first event of the New Year is coming up next month. As many in the United States will soon prepare to move their clocks an hour forward for Daylight Savings time, we will also “spring forward” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to celebrate frogs, toads and other amphibians!

Guests visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watch on March 5 will have the opportunity to learn about various amphibians and participate in fun, amphibian related activities! Hop on by to examine amphibian adaptations, try leaping like a frog, listen to and identify frog calls, and make toad abodes (special homes for frogs and toads) for their backyards.

Wildlife Wednesday: Learn How to Protect Wildlife March 5 at the “Spring Forward” Event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesday: Learn How to Protect Wildlife March 5 at the “Spring Forward” Event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Can’t make it to the event, but still want to celebrate amphibians?

  • Invite a bug-zapping amphibian into your backyard by placing an overturned pot (toad abode) in your yard as a new home. Frogs provide a free pest-control service (they eat billions of harmful insects annually, including mosquitoes and their larvae)!
  • Use fewer chemical pesticides on your lawn to keep amphibians healthy.
  • Create a habitat for frogs by building a pond, planting native shrubs, and leave leaves and logs in your yard.
  • Take part in a local pond or stream clean-up to ensure that native amphibians will have a clean home.
  • Plan a family outing to a local pond to hear different species of frogs communicate with one another.
Wildlife Wednesday: Learn How To Protect Wildlife March 5 at the “Spring Forward” Event At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wildlife Wednesday: Learn How To Protect Wildlife March 5 at the “Spring Forward” Event At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Did you know that, according to some estimates, as many as one-third of the known amphibian species are threatened by extinction because of loss of habitat, climate change, pollution and disease? In an effort to help reverse this decline, our animal care experts are raising the critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Once old enough, tadpoles are released into their native habitat to re-populate an area where these toads once thrived.

These are just some of the many ways our team works to conserve nature by reducing the decline of species in the wild and increasing the time that kids and families spend in nature to instill life-long conservation values. To find out more about Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Hope to see you soon!

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Governor Awards Disneyland Resort California’s Highest Environmental Honor

posted on January 26th, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort


The Disneyland Resort was honored last week with a Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) for waste reduction efforts. In the last 10 years, the Disneyland Resort has doubled the amount of waste diverted from landfills with the long-term goal of achieving Zero Waste – a designation already awarded to Circle D Corral by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and one of the success stories noted in the GEELA nomination.

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From the 4.4 million pounds of food scraps processed into animal feed annually, to the 20,000 pounds of partially used bathroom amenities collected at Disneyland Resort hotels for Clean the World Foundation, to the donation and repurposing of gently used shoes, costumes, furniture and decorations, and much more – the Disneyland Resort is doing its part to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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The Disneyland Resort also was a 2009 GEELA recipient for sustainable practices, which included the drought-conscious way water-based attractions are drained and refilled working with the Orange County Water District.

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Disneyland Resort Circle D Corral Now Zero Waste Certified

posted on January 20th, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort


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What do you do with your laundry lint? You may remember that Circle D Corral, a working ranch that is home to the animals of the Disneyland Resort, makes it into compost. Thanks to efforts begun four years ago by cast member Andrea Raney, Circle D Corral is now gold-level Zero Waste certified by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, with 99 percent of its waste repurposed, composted or recycled.

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In addition to recycling paper, cardboard, plastics and metal, Circle D Corral composts all animal waste and hay scraps, hand towels and laundry lint from the Disneyland Hotel and coffee grounds from Disneyland Resort restaurants. Congratulations to Circle D Corral for becoming the first Walt Disney Company location, and the first location in a theme park, to achieve this certification!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Animals at Walt Disney World Enjoyed the Holiday Season with Festive Enrichment Gifts!

posted on January 7th, 2015 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


As many finish packing up the holiday décor (and others resist a few more days), we have one more holiday post to keep the joyous spirit alive.

If you’ve visited Walt Disney World Resort during the holidays, you know the festivities and holiday cheer are all around! But our guests and cast members aren’t the only ones who experienced the holiday spirit … Our animals did too! This holiday season, the Science Operations Team hosted a competition for the animal care teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Animal keepers were challenged to create inventive animal enrichment experiences highlighting specific holiday themes, including wreaths, snow, candy canes, presents, gingerbread and ornaments.

The teams then designed these themed holiday “gifts” for the animals under their care with the goals of highlighting some of their natural behaviors, introducing the holiday spirit, and providing unique viewing opportunities for our guests. We thought it would be fun to share a few of the many great ideas the animal care staff came up with — so here it goes!

This Asian-Small Clawed Otter Looks Like he’s Making Snow Balls Cotton-Top Tamarins Experienced Snow on the Rooftop of their Home As Well!

On Discovery Island, Asian-small clawed otters experienced all the fun of snow, a rare occurrence in sunny Florida. Nearby, Cotton-top tamarins experienced a snow-covered roof, icicle treats and a snowman at their home, also on Discovery Island.

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The Western lowland gorillas on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail gather goodies from a tire-swing wreath decorated with edible treats including fruit, vegetables and hay.

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Just around the corner, slender-tailed meerkats on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail seemed eager to explore an oversize wreath of their own. This one is made from grass flats and barley and decorated with pinecones.

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Guests who traveled to Conservation Station had the opportunity to decorate ornaments with conservation messages for the African elephants. The animal keepers then decorated trees with these fun edible creations and delivered them to all members of the elephant herd.

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Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge had the opportunity to work with animal keepers to craft enrichment “presents” for the animals and then stayed to watch as the animals enjoyed their creations. This Roan antelope found a firehouse-cube “gift” complete with a leafy bow under their holiday tree. The tree was made from edible browse and decorated with vegetable ornaments to enjoy.

Did you know?

  • Enrichment is a key part of the animal care program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Enrichment allows animals to make choices about their environment and encourages natural behaviors. These initiatives enable guests to see the cool adaptations that help animals survive.
  • You can enrich the lives of wildlife and encourage natural behaviors in your own backyard by adding a bird bath, native plants, log piles and bird houses. Then, sit back and enjoy the fun of watching wildlife up close!
  • To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, please visit: www.disney.com/conservation.

Happy New Year!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating Animal Births at Walt Disney World Resort in 2014!

posted on December 31st, 2014 by Dr. Mark Penning, Director of Animal Operations, Disney Parks


Earlier this year, avid Disney Parks Blog readers joined us as we celebrated the arrival of two Western lowland gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Western Lowland Gorilla Baby #1 and Mom Western Lowland Gorilla Baby #2 with Mom. Look For the Entire Family Group on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Those births were a very exciting time for our Animal Programs team, but we’ve had plenty of excitement throughout the year with hundreds of births and hatchings! (You are probably thinking, “Where are they keeping all of these baby animals?!”, but keep in mind that this large number includes invertebrates that can have 100 offspring at a time!) While we don’t have the space here to feature all of our new babies, the Animal Programs team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge have helped compile a quick list of some of the baby animals we welcomed this year.

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Just around the corner from the gorilla families on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, you can find a maze of slender-tailed meerkat burrows, and might even catch a glimpse of this baby meerkat or one of its nine siblings! The adults can be seen sitting upright as they keep watch over the newly extended family, and an alarm chirp sends them all scurrying into the safety of the burrows.

Great Blue Turacos Nest in the African Aviary at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Black Cheeked Lovebird Hatchlings Weigh Only 5 grams (About the Weight of a Quarter) at Hatch Look For the Beautiful Black Cheeked Lovebirds on Your Next Visit to the African Aviary on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

A short walk from the meerkats, the African Aviary on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is also home to new babies. These offspring weren’t born, they hatched! The Great blue turaco is the largest of the 23 types of turacos found only in Africa. They are primarily fruit eaters, and although they can fly very well, they prefer to run and scamper about the tree limbs, almost like a squirrel. This beautiful bird and recent hatchling can be seen in the Africa Aviary.

Also in the African Aviary, you can find a colony of Black cheeked lovebirds – a vulnerable African species of parrot. Only two zoos in the United States care for this species. The hatchlings weigh in at only ~5 grams (about the weight of a quarter) and reach only 4 inches in length when they are fully grown.

A wallaby joey is one of the many interesting species you don’t want to miss at the Oasis Exhibits as you begin your adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He is most active during the cooler parts of the day, mornings and after late day rains. If you didn’t see his birth announcement on the Disney Parks Blog, you can check it out here.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris, an open-air vehicle tour of a lush African savannah, is now home to this cute springbok calf, along with three other calves and their families. The springbok is able to run alongside its mother within an hour after birth, but of course it tires quickly, and will then flatten itself into the long grass and hide from predators.

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In 2014, the team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge was delighted to welcome three Thomson’s gazelles, which are very similar in appearance to the springbok. The newest addition, pictured here, is a girl who was born in October. Although she’s resting in this photo, she often leaps and tears around the savannah. Thomson’s gazelles are some of the fastest antelope in Africa, and combine their incredible speed with agile jumps and maneuvers. They are often able to outrun cheetahs and other predators.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is also home to a Red river hog sow and her three piglets, born in May. This is her second litter and the entire family, including dad and aunt, can be found on the Pembe savannah.
(Did you know a female hog is called a “sow”? You did? “Sow” did I!)

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All of our births and hatchings are celebrated because many animals, including the Western lowland gorilla and Black cheeked lovebirds, need our help for their species to survive. Several species are a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). Look for other baby animals and their families throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. We look forward to the New Year as we continue to protect wildlife and wild places around the world.

Happy New Year from all of our families to yours!!

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Wildlife Wednesday: 9 Intriguing Animals You Don’t Want to Miss at Walt Disney World Resort – No FastPass Required!

posted on December 17th, 2014 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to rush through the day and miss the beauty all around you. In my role, I have the opportunity to work with hundreds of animals and I wanted to share just a few hidden gems. You might have to slow down a bit to find them, but I promise they will be worth a look on your next trip to Walt Disney World Resort. In no particular order:

1. & 2. Red kangaroos & Longnose Gar – Discovery Island Trails & Oasis, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Did you know animals could be found on your way into Disney’s Animal Kingdom? As you enter the park, adventure awaits around every corner, if you take the time to look for it. The longnose gar can be found on the path that crosses through the center of the Oasis just after you enter the park. The red kangaroos can be seen from vantage points at the front of the Tree of Life.

See the Red Kangaroos on Discovery Island Trails & Oasis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom See the Longnose Gar on Discovery Island Trails & Oasis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

3. & 4. Ruppell’s griffon vulture & Nyala – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is more than a resort. It’s home to more than 200 animals including the Ruppell’s griffon vulture and mesmerizing Nyala. All guests are welcome to enjoy the animals at the resort and if you’re looking for lunch plans, up to 12 guests can Dine with Animal Specialists at Sanaa to learn more about all the animals on the savannah!

Visit Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Visit the Nyala at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

5. Argus Pheasant – Maharajah Jungle Trek, Asia, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The Maharajah Jungle Trek is home to more than tigers and bats. Don’t bypass the aviary on your next visit or you’ll miss the beautiful Argus pheasant.

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6. Eld’s deer – Maharajah Jungle Trek, Asia, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Eld’s deer are an endangered species that can also be found on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. On your next visit, take a look at their large floppy ears that can turn independently of one another. Those ears allow the Eld’s deer to hear predators from long distances.

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7. Shetland ponies – Tri-Circle-D Ranch, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is home to plenty of outdoor activities from horseback rides to carriage rides, and even pony rides! The Shetland ponies are located just a few feet from Pioneer Hall at the Tri-Circle-D Farm. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the Draft Horse Barn where you can see a variety of breeds and see a display on the many horses in Disney history.

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8. Pineywoods cow – Affection Section, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Affection Section is a hidden gem in itself. Guests have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few different animals and learn from animal experts and keepers. Pineywoods cattle are a critically endangered breed of “heritage” livestock, so pay this gal a visit. If you’re feeling really inspired, you can contribute to conservation efforts around the world through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

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9. Asian brown tortoise – Dinoland, U.S.A., Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Dinoland, U.S.A. is home to many animals (most are extinct). But it’s in a little island between The Boneyard and Restaurantosaurus that you can find the last animals on our list today. One side of the island is home to the American crocodile, but don’t forget to walk around and say hello to the Asian brown tortoises.

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