Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Statue at Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: Animals Enjoy Holiday Fun Too at Walt Disney World Resort

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


Our guests and cast members are not the only ones who experienced special delights during the holidays at Walt Disney World Resort. Our animals did too! This holiday season, the Disney’s Animal Programs Science Operations Team hosted a competition for the animal care teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The goal: craft creative holiday experiences for the animals in their care.

The competition encouraged teams to design holiday “gifts” for their animals to highlight the animals’ natural behaviors, introduce the holiday spirit and provide 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!

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Bat holiday wreath — One of our Malayan flying foxes enjoys a holiday wreath made of natural grasses and nutritious vegetables on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

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Springbok holiday tree — A pair of springbok investigate a tree ornamented with fresh produce on the savanna of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

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Holiday-themed snack for giraffe — One of our Masai giraffe explores this festive feeding device filled with nutritious treats in view of guests.

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Tiger meets snowman — A tiger makes “friends” with a holiday snowman crafted by the animal care team of holiday-scented paper mache.

Did you know?

A progressive and integrated enrichment program plays a key role in delivering uncompromising excellence in animal care and welfare. Enrichment encourages animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, which is mentally and physically healthy for them, and also enables guests to see the cool adaptations that help the 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 the wildlife up close! To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: A Look Back at a Few Baby Animals Welcomed in 2013

posted on December 18th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


As the year comes to a close, let’s take a look back at a few of the baby animals we welcomed in 2013.

In March, we shared the news about a saddle-billed stork chick hatched at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Not only was this chick a first for its parents, but also a first for the park. In the same post, we reported on the birth of a white-cheeked gibbon. This baby joined a family consisting of mom, dad, big sister and big brother.

Saddle-billed stork chick Infant white-cheeked gibbon and its mother

The summer brought word from Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization that receives support from Disney, about an amazing birth. Tamara, a cotton-top tamarin who lives in the forest of Colombia, South America, had just given birth to her 12th litter and 22nd infant.

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In October, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, we welcomed a baby Hartmann’s mountain zebra. The population of this rare species of zebra is teetering at just under 50 animals in the U.S.

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At Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, we had a record number of sea turtle nests in 2013 — 1,654 to be exact — which resulted in thousands of baby sea turtles. What fantastic news for conservation!

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I also couldn’t go without mentioning our baby siamang twins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Although they weren’t born in 2013, they began spending lots of time this year in their habitat in the Asia area of the park, always under the watchful eye of their dad Kenny and, of course, our animal care team.

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These new additions represent conservation successes for both species in human care and in the wild. They are a source of inspiration for me, and a reminder to do all I can to protect wildlife and nature. I am proud and thankful that our guests tell us again and again that they are inspired too. Happy holidays!

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Endangered Cotton-Top Tamarins Receive Gift of Protected Forest

posted on December 11th, 2013 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


I am thrilled to report that critically endangered cotton-top tamarins in Colombia, South America, received an amazing gift just in time for the holidays — the gift of an additional area of protected forest. This tiny monkey with the wild hairdo, which guests can see when they visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is native only in Colombia, and there are fewer than 7,500 remaining.

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An area of forest in Santa Catalina, Colombia, has been officially declared a protected area for the cotton-top by Cardique, a regional environmental protection agency in that country.

Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization in Colombia whose mission is to save the cotton-top tamarin, has been working to call attention to some of the last remaining forested areas for cotton-tops. The newly-protected area has been a long-term field site for the study of cotton-tops by Proyecto Titi.

Last year 900 hectares (over 2,200 acres) in the Atlántico region of Colombia was declared a protected area for cotton-tops, and now another 421 protected hectares (over 1,000 acres) has been added.

The next time you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to stop by to see the cotton-top tamarins. You can see them in a habitat in front of the Tree of Life and also at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

You can find out even more about cotton-top tamarins at www.proyectotiti.com and how the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is helping cotton-tops, other tamarins and wildlife around the world at www.disney.com/conservation.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Record Number of Sea Turtle Nests This Year at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

posted on December 4th, 2013 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


The 2013 sea turtle nesting season is over, and the results are in. This year, we had a record number of sea turtle nests on the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort!

Three species of sea turtles nest on the beach at the resort: loggerhead sea turtles, green sea turtles and leatherback sea turtles. In 2013, we broke our record for the most nesting green sea turtles on the stretch of beach monitored by the Disney’s Animal Programs team. An amazing 569 green sea turtle nests were documented. And it was our second highest year on record for loggerhead nesting, with 1,077 nests counted. We also counted 8 nests for the huge leatherback turtle. The number of nests is great news for the conservation of these endangered sea turtles.

Speaking of conservation, we also now have the results from the 2013 Tour de Turtles, a wonderful sea turtle conservation and research program. Two Disney-sponsored turtles, Carrie and Claire, both loggerheads, took part in the race.

Record Number of Sea Turtle Nests This Year at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Record Number of Sea Turtle Nests This Year at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Carrie came in fourth place, but she came in first place in the “Causes Challenge” — she was swimming to raise awareness about the threat of light pollution on the beach. Since sea turtle hatchlings rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean, many become disoriented and drawn off-course by artificial light sources. In another first, Carrie came ashore twice in the same year to nest near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Her two nests resulted in 161 hatchlings each, for a total of 322 hatchlings!

Claire was not far behind, placing sixth in the Tour de Turtles and receiving an honorable mention in the “Causes Challenge” for raising awareness about the dangers of sea turtles ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris. Claire’s nest had 99 hatchlings.

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What an exciting year! And here’s to a successful 2014 sea turtle nesting season — we’ll be sure to tell you how it goes!

Remember, all of us can help sea turtles by taking action to reduce, reuse and recycle; by making sure that we dispose of trash properly; by turning off unnecessary lights that may be visible on nesting beaches; and by observing turtles and other wildlife from a safe distance, taking care not to disturb them or their habitats. To find out more about Disney’s conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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Among First Green Lodges, Disney Florida Resorts Once Again Receive This Eco-Friendly Honor

posted on November 20th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


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Nearly 10 years ago, when the State of Florida began its Green Lodging program, Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort were among the first hotels in the state to receive this honor. The rest of our resorts soon followed. I’m proud to report that The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently renewed the Green Lodging designation for all the Disney-owned and operated resorts in Florida.

This three-year distinction is a way to recognize hotels that help protect Florida’s natural resources through efforts that reduce waste, conserve water and energy, improve air quality, and raise awareness of environmental conservation. Here are a few of the ways we are working to conserve resources at our resorts:

  • Recycling in guest rooms and resort public areas, and printing in-room guest information on recycled paper.
  • Creatively using energy-efficient lighting, monitoring thermostats, and turning off lights and equipment when not in use.
  • Collecting for recycling by Clean the World used soaps, shampoos, conditioners and lotions, which are then reprocessed and distributed by this nonprofit organization to impoverished people with a goal of preventing millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses. In 2012 alone, cast members collected more than 128,000 pounds of hygiene products that were reprocessed into 393,000 soap bars.
  • Through the Disney Harvest program, collecting unused prepared foods from resort kitchens that is distributed through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. More than 1,000 local children are fed weekly through this program.

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A big thank you goes out to our guests, who join us in conserving resources, including by recycling, switching off lights, TVs and ceiling fans, and adjusting thermostats when they leave their resort rooms.

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VIDEO: Disney’s Environmentality at the Disneyland Resort

posted on November 15th, 2013 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort


Did you know today is America Recycles Day? Check out how some of our recycling efforts add up in an average year at the Disneyland Resort!

Learn more about our environmental programs in this video!

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Thanksgiving Bounty Aplenty at The Land Pavilion at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on November 13th, 2013 by Fred Petitt, Ph.D., Agricultural and Water Sciences director, Disney Parks


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Any time of the year is a fantastic time to experience Living with the Land and the Behind the Seeds tour at Epcot. A visit around Thanksgiving, a holiday that celebrates the fall harvest, however, can be even more special.

The Agricultural Sciences team really gets into the holiday spirit. They created a delightful display featuring pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and scarecrows. Throughout the attraction, guests can see fall colors on fruits, vegetables and flowers including pepper “towers,” bitter melons, and even edible flowers like the French marigold.

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Did you know?

  • Guests experience a two-acre wonderland of tomato “trees,” cucumbers on strings, hanging pumpkins, floating lettuce and even Mickey Mouse-shaped fruit at The Land Pavilion, making it one of the most unique growing facilities in the world. Visitors gain inspiration for their gardens at home and look at the issues of feeding the world in sustainable and creative ways.
  • On the Behind the Seeds tour, guests get a more in-depth understanding of innovative growing practices as agricultural scientists guide guests through the greenhouses and laboratories. Technologies aimed at achieving sustainability are demonstrated, like the careful management of water and nutrients and biological control of insect pests.
  • The Land scientists are constantly working to develop growing systems that are both kinder to the environment and improve productivity — for example, figuring out how to grow more crops in less space so people have the food they need and forests and other natural areas are protected.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Fun Facts Shared on Rhino Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on November 6th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


What does your hair have in common with a rhino horn?

To answer the question above: If your hair can be unruly like mine, hopefully it’s not your look on a bad hair day! What do they have in common? Human hair and a rhino’s horn are both made of keratin, a protein that is a basic component of our fingernails, too.

Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Rhino Day (November 12) will discover lots of fun facts about the magnificent rhinoceros. Here are a couple more: A group of rhinos is called a “crash,” and there are five kinds of rhino: white, black, Indian, Sumatran and Javan. Every day, guests can see white and black rhinos on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, including the rhino calf that was born last year. And on the Wild Africa Trek, guests can relax on the boma landing and watch the white rhinos and many other animals on the savannas. On Rhino Day, guests can participate in special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, including learning what rhinos eat, how we care for the rhinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the creative ways that the animal care team is supporting rhino conservation.

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Did you know?

  • The success of the white rhino breeding program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has enabled our animal care team to make a direct contribution to the conservation of white rhinos in the wild. In 2006, Nande and Hasani, two rhinos born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, traveled to Africa to join four others at Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda, where they are helping to reestablish a population that had been extinct since the 1980s. In 2009, Nande became the first white rhino to give birth in Uganda in 27 years; she gave birth to a second calf in 2011.
  • This year, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is supporting projects that protect black and Sumatran rhinos. To find out more, visit www.disney.com/conservation

Read more stories about these celebrations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

A Special Treat: Walt Disney World Wins Sustainability Award for “Making the Switch” to Save Electricity

posted on October 31st, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Saving electricity is no trick—like many efforts to protect our planet, it can be hard work. That makes receiving the Sustainable Florida Best Practice Award in the large business category even more of a special treat.

Yesterday, I had the honor of accepting this award on behalf of the Walt Disney World Resort for our “Make the Switch” electricity conservation program, along with two of my partners in this important work, Mark Todd, Vice President, Engineering Services and Manufacturing, and Dan Cockerell, Vice President, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The award was announced at the “Working on the Green Sustainability Summit” here in Orlando, Florida.

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We are especially proud to receive this award because it is recognition of Disney’s long-standing commitment to the environment, conservation and the natural world. This legacy started with Walt Disney himself and, thanks to our cast members, it has continued to grow. As Disney cast members, each and every one of us has the privilege—and the responsibility—to champion this important part of Walt’s legacy by leading the way in environmental stewardship.

To save electricity, cast members have been doing small things that make a big difference like switching off lights and equipment when not in use. We’ve also been implementing major programs like using energy-efficient lighting in innovative ways, and enhancing energy management and air-conditioning systems throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Our guests are joining us in conserving electricity to help protect our planet by switching off lights, TVs and ceiling fans, and adjusting thermostats when they leave their resort rooms.

Of course, there’s a lot more we want to accomplish! We’re always looking for new ways to conserve resources, including electricity. To find out more about all of our environmental goals, please visit www.disney.com/environment.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Rare Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on October 30th, 2013 by Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the arrival of a baby animal is always cause for celebration, but when the baby is a Hartmann’s mountain zebra, it’s even more rewarding for the animal care team. The population of this rare species of zebra is teetering at just under 50 animals in the U.S., and the Hartmann’s mountain zebra is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species.
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The filly was born earlier this month at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Guests are able to see her with her mom roaming the resort’s savanna.

Disney’s Animal Programs team is actively involved in the Hartmann’s mountain zebra Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP).

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Did you know?

  • There are three species of zebra, two of which live on the savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can see plains zebras as well as Hartmann’s mountain zebras during your stay.
  • If you look carefully, you can tell which zebra species is which by their stripes: plains zebras have wider stripes that wrap around their bellies. The Hartmann’s mountain zebras have thinner stripes that do not extend around the belly.
  • There are many theories concerning the major function of the stripes on a zebra. Most scientists believe that the zebra’s stripes may serve to break up the outline of the zebra’s body in the herd and provide some camouflage when the zebra is standing in tall grass. And no two individual zebras look exactly alike.
  • Like zebras, many local species of wildlife are threatened by loss of habitat. Creating natural habitats for the wildlife in your own backyard is a great way to help. You can do this by planting native trees, shrubs and flowers, which serve as food sources and nesting sites for the wildlife near you. To learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation
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