I am so excited about the next Disneynature film, and I think you will be too! Just in time for Earth Day 2014, Disneynature will release its new True Life Adventure “Bears.” In theaters April 18, “Bears” is an epic story of breathtaking scale set against a majestic Alaskan backdrop teeming with life. The film follows a bear family as impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons.
I have seen Alaskan bears firsthand, and truly they are amazing animals. I’m excited that now you can see them too. Today, at 6 p.m. EDT, Disneynature and Explore.org, will host a live chat with Ranger Roy from the National Park Service to answer your questions about bears and Alaska.
Right now, you can head over to http://www.explore.org/bearfun and check out a live bear cam in Katmai National Park, download a Disneynature “Bears” activity sheet, and get more information about the bears that you’re seeing.
Be sure to see Disneynature “Bears” when it roars onto the big screen on April 18. SEE “BEARS,” PROTECT OUR NATIONAL PARKS invites moviegoers to see the film during opening week (April 18-24, 2014) and Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to protect wildlife and wild places across America’s national park system.
Did you know?
Disney’s commitment to conservation is a key pillar of the Disneynature label. Through donations tied to opening week attendance for its first four theatrical releases (“Earth,” “Oceans,” African Cats,” and “Chimpanzee”), Disneynature, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) www.disney.com/conservation, has planted three million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, established 40,000 acres of marine protected area in The Bahamas, protected 65,000 acres of savanna in Kenya, protected nearly 130,000 acres of wild chimpanzee habitat, educated 60,000 school children about chimpanzee conservation and cared for chimpanzees.
To commemorate the second anniversary of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, last week – and in support of the Nature Conservancy – a global conservation organization, cast members and guests celebrated with the resort’s first-ever Ducky Derby through the Waikolohe Stream. We captured a “duck-eye” view of more than 1,000 rubber duckies starting their journey from the top of Tubestone Curl, then making a mad splash around the stream before racing to the finish line. For each guest participating, Aulani made a $10 donation, resulting in a $10,000 contribution to Hawai`iʻs Nature Conservancy to help preserve and sustain Hawai`iʻs environment – from the mountains to the ocean.
Vultures and manatees are two creatures that often are misunderstood. That’s one reason why it’s so much fun for us to showcase them with special activities — there’s so much to learn about! For example, take a look at the following:
Myth or fact: Vultures can help prevent the spread of rabies. This is a fact — by eating the carcasses of dead animals, vultures help prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases, such as rabies, among animals and humans.
Myth or fact: Manatees are closely related to cows (or walruses, or seals). This is a myth — although they are sometimes called sea cows, elephants are one of the manatee’s closest relatives.
Guests can find out all about vultures during special activities in celebration of International Vulture Awareness Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on September 5 and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge on September 7. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, activities will take place near the Tree of Life and at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, activities will take place in the Jambo House lobby. Year-round, guests can see lappet-faced vultures at the Tree of Life, black vultures at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Ruppell’s griffon vultures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
At The Seas with Nemo & Friends on September 7, special activities are designed to help guests learn about manatees and how to protect them in celebration of International Manatee Day. For example, guests will find out that manatees belong to a group of aquatic, plant-eating mammals called sirenians. They also will learn that actions all of us can take to keep waterways clean, such as recycling plastic bottles and used fishing line, can protect these majestic mammals. Rescued manatees Lou and Vail make their home at The Seas. The marine mammal team said that Lou and Vail will be celebrating International Manatee Day too, by eating fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets.
Among the 2013 projects supported by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund are projects helping protect vultures and manatees. To find out more, visit www.disney.com/conservation.
When we started the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) in 1995, I couldn’t have dreamed that I would have the honor of making this announcement: The DWCF has just awarded its 1,000th conservation grant. That means we are celebrating 1,000 projects around the world protecting the world’s wildlife and connecting kids and communities to nature.
These projects include 150 that were notified this week of their selection. These 2013 projects are addressing critical conservation needs that include:
Engaging youth in Shanghai and nearby communities in field monitoring to help protect the Chinese alligator.
Just a few weeks ago, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests cheered as two giant loggerhead sea turtles returned to the sea after nesting on the beach. The turtles had been fitted with satellite transmitters to help with conservation efforts as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles,” which tracks the turtles to their foraging grounds.
Last week, one of those sea turtles returned to nest again near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Carrie, named for a character in the Disney•Pixar film “Monsters University,” was spotted by members of our turtle monitoring team who were surveying the beach for nesting turtles. Carrie was easy to spot — she is a “monstrously” large loggerhead turtle — and she was wearing her Tour de Turtles satellite transmitter.
Carrie is the first loggerhead to be documented nesting twice during the same Tour de Turtles race! Carrie laid her eggs exactly 14 days after her first clutch, and her second nest is within a half mile of her Tour de Turtles nest. How is that for being able to find your way back to your nesting beach!
What a year it has been for sea turtles! First, one of our Disney-sponsored 2011 Tour de Turtles sea turtles, Lightning McQueen, came back this summer to lay her eggs near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and now Carrie has a second nest in the same year. We also are on track for having a monstrously successful sea turtle nesting season. We have broken our 10-year record and have more green sea turtle nests (432 on our 7-kilometer stretch of beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort) as of last week, and we are on track to have the second highest year for loggerheads (1,039 nests as of last week). The record was set last year with 1,365. Will we break the record this year? Maybe Carrie knows the answer!
You can track Carrie, Claire (our other Disney-sponsored turtle), and all of the 2013 Tour de Turtles sea turtles online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
They live in many different parts of the world. They vary in age, language, and level of education. Sadly, one of them even lost his life doing the work he loved. They are heroes in different ways, but what they all have in common is their passion for protecting nature, and sharing their love of wildlife with others. That’s why we are recognizing these inspiring people as Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) Conservation Heroes.
Here are just a few of their stories:
Nomusa Zikhali (nominated by the Africa Foundation) started what is now a model school with a gathering of children, many of them orphans, under a tree in rural South Africa. The Nkomo Full-Service School has grown to include 17 classrooms, including facilities for disabled children. Principal Zikhali has maintained a focus on connecting her students with nature at a nearby wildlife reserve and by integrating conservation education into the school’s curriculum.
Felix Medina (nominated by the Wildlife Conservation Network), a farmer and hunter, has worked for 25 years for Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization in Colombia, South America, whose mission is to save the cotton-top tamarin. Mr. Medina was instrumental in conducting a census of the total population of cotton-tops, resulting in these small monkeys being declared one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates.
Silver James Birungi (nominated by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance) is a wildlife conservation educator for a chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda. He educates kids in an area where it has been cuturally accepted to keep, sell and kill chimpanzees. Mr. Birungi has traveled across Uganda to raise awareness and help change minds, attitudes, behaviors and actions, reaching more than 11,673 students in nearly 200 schools, as well as 8,000 community members.
Peter Lalampaa (nominated by the Saint Louis Zoo Association), now a senior manager for the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, has grown the trust’s scout, ambassador and warrior programs. His work is enabling Grevy’s zebra to be monitored and protected over a wide area of Kenya, including remote areas where no wildlife conservation programs had existed.
Jairo Mora Sandoval (nominated posthumously by the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) monitored Moin Beach in Costa Rica, where he was responsible for protecting sea turtle nests and thousands of baby sea turtles. This 26-year-old conservationist had a passion for the wild creatures of his country and a dedication to their survival that was unshakable. This past spring, while patroling Moin Beach, Mr. Sandoval lost his life while protecting sea turtle nests. His award will be presented to his family.
Since 2004, Disney has honored 85 people around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts. To read more about all 14 of the 2013 Disney Conservation Heroes, visit www.disney.com/conservation.
I first “met” Tamara, a cotton-top tamarin who lives in the forest in Colombia, South America, when she was still in her mom’s belly. Thirteen years later (a ripe old age for a cotton-top), she continues to amaze me. Cotton-tops usually give birth to twins, and she recently gave birth to her 12th litter and 22nd infant!
Over the years, Tamara has been a fantastic mom and family member. Thanks to her resourcefulness, Tamara’s family has continued to thrive in their forest home. And she has helped us to learn so much about cotton-top tamarins. For example, we had no idea how many infants a female in the wild could produce. Thanks to Tamara, we’ve had the opportunity at the conservation organization dedicated to cotton-tops, Proyecto Titi, to study all of her infants and learn so much about these fascinating animals. Luckily for Tamara, cotton-top moms don’t raise their babies all by themselves. The babies’ dad, brothers and sisters all help to take care of the babies.
This month at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re celebrating Tamara and rest of the cotton-tops, critically endangered monkeys found only in Colombia, where August 15 has been proclaimed a national holiday — the Day of the Cotton-Top Tamarin. If you visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you can find out about cotton-top tamarins’ favorite foods, how scientists locate them in the forest, and even how to do the cotton-top tamarin dance. Other highlights include face painters and caricature artists with designs featuring cotton-top tamarins created just for the celebration. And, take my word for it, the cotton-top tamarin cupcakes are too delicious to pass up.
Cotton-top tamarins and plastic bags actually have something in common. Proyecto Titi 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 these beautiful, colorful tote bags called eco-mochilas, which are sold at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purchasing an eco-mochila helps communities in Colombia protect forests that the cotton-top tamarins call home.
Last Saturday morning, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests connected with nature in a way that few people get to experience when they cheered on two giant, loggerhead sea turtles named for Disney characters – who had laid their eggs on the beach the night before – as they returned to the sea. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles,” which follows the marathon migration of 11 sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds.
Each turtle in Tour de Turtles acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Carrie is raising 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. We can help by turning off unnecessary lights that may be visible on nesting beaches. Claire is raising awareness about the threat of plastic debris. Many turtles have been killed by swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic debris, including plastic bags and fishing lines. We can help by recycling and putting trash in appropriate containers.
Researchers from Disney’s Animal Programs and the Sea Turtle Conservancy will track the sea turtles using satellite telemetry as they travel from their nesting beach to various feeding grounds. Using this technology, scientists learn about sea turtles’ habits at sea and the different migratory patterns of each species. This knowledge helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation actions and policies. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org. Lightning McQueen, a sea turtle sponsored by Disney from the 2011 Tour de Turtles, returned again this year to the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to nest, and her eggs hatched just a few weeks ago with the baby turtles heading out to sea.
Of the nearly than $20 million that the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has distributed since the fund’s inception, more than $1 million has helped support sea turtle conservation around the world. Guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt the nest of one of the sea turtles that lays her eggs at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, including Carrie’s and Claire’s. The adoption fee is directed through the DWCF to sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida.
The team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends celebrate and conserve turtles and tortoises every day. Over the years, for example, the Disney’s Animal Programs team has nursed more than 300 endangered sea turtles back to health and released them back to their home in the sea.
At Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, the Disney’s Animal Programs team monitors sea turtle nesting activity on several miles of beach near the resort, and examines what factors contribute to successful hatching of the sea turtle nests. Resort guests can get involved too. For example, kids can join Turtle Troop, a fun and educational experience that combines crafts and a walk on the beach to see a sea turtle nest up close.
Our very first Masai giraffe calf, a male, was born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently and will go out on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna within the next few weeks. We are excited to have you pick the baby’s name from a list prepared by our animal care team. It’s easy to cast your vote. Check the list below, make your choice and keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog to find out what name gets the most votes—I’ll post the results next Wednesday (July 31).
Did you know?
There are two subspecies of giraffe—Masai and reticulated—roaming the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna. Most are now Masai giraffe, with reticulated giraffe making their home on the savannas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Having two kinds of giraffe enables cast members to share even more great stories about these amazing animals.
The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) can be found in southern Kenya and throughout Tanzania. Reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) are widely found in northern Kenya and in Somalia.
The Masai giraffe’s coat features jagged-edged patches. The patches are dark brown on a cream background, making the Masai the darkest-colored subspecies. The reticulated giraffe’s coat features a pattern of very defined patches that usually are orangish brown. The patches are separated by bright white lines, and the lower part of the legs are a lighter color.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 40,000 Masai giraffe in the wild. The reticulated giraffe is more threatened in the wild, with numbers fewer than 5,000. Giraffes are threatened by habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, poaching, and human-wildlife conflicts.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) helps to support conservation programs for wildlife like giraffes. For example, through a recent project, the DWCF helped Tusk Trust USA and the Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy reintroduce Rothschild’s giraffes in Kenya. This program also enhances community awareness of wildlife conservation through anti-poaching, wildlife monitoring, and educational programs in local schools. Since its inception in 1995, the DWCF has provided more than $4.5 million to support habitat conservation for giraffes and other African wildlife. Through a collaboration with Disneynature and the “See ‘African Cats,’ Save the Savanna” campaign, the DWCF also helped the African Wildlife Foundation to protect more than 65,000 acres of land in Kenya’s Amboseli Wildlife Corridor to enable indigenous animals including giraffes, cheetahs, and lions to roam freely between protected habitats.
What name did you vote for? Tell us about your favorite in the “Comments” section below or join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #DisneyGiraffe.
Look closely at this tiger photo taken at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and you’ll discover some of the special characteristics of this magnificent animal — the largest of all cats.
For one thing, you may notice that the tiger’s ears can turn independently of each other, allowing them to pick up sounds from different directions. The ears also have distinctive white circular spots—think eyes in back of their heads to scare off potential predators, according to one theory.
Guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom on July 25 will discover even more about tigers and learn about efforts to conserve them as the park celebrates Tiger Day with special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Families can test their skills at identifying tiger calls, find out where in the world tigers live and how they travel through the forest, and see if they can leap as far as a tiger, among other activities.
Of course, every day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests love seeing our tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, where the tigers can enjoy a dip in the water, nap on the grass, and play with a variety of tiger toys. Unlike some other cats, tigers seem to enjoy water and can swim well. They use rivers and lakes to seek relief from the heat and to catch fish.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) is helping to conserve tigers. So far, the fund has contributed $1.4 million to projects working to protect tigers and other big cats like lions and leopards. Last year, for example the DWCF provided funding to the Wildlife Conservation Society to help the government of Thailand train and equip park rangers to reduce the threat of poaching and wildlife trade for tigers and other forest wildlife in that country.
More tiger fun facts:
Did you know that a tiger’s stripes help it hunt? The stripes break up their outline, helping tigers to remain undetected as they close in on their prey in their forest homes. And not only is a tiger’s fur striped, but its skin underneath is too.
During the day tigers can see about as well as humans, but their night vision is six times more powerful.
Tigers use their whiskers as “feelers,” helping these large cats to navigate their way through dark and heavily wooded areas.