Disney Parks Blog has been following the story of GRACE since the beginning. Of course, our wish, and the wish of the local Congolese people who work at GRACE, is that there would be no baby gorillas orphaned through poaching in need of human care. Until then, we are fortunate to have GRACE, a facility where orphaned gorillas can be rehabilitated for eventual reintroduction to the wild. GRACE currently is home to 12 orphaned gorillas, with 3 more arriving soon.
We hope you enjoy our new video about GRACE.
Want even more inspiration? Click here to see a second video featuring the gorillas at GRACE.
Think bats are scary? The scariest thing about bats is not having them around. Do you like bananas, cashews, cotton t-shirts, pickles or peaches? If so, you can thank a bat. From pest control to pollination, bats worldwide are important to people and nature.
Guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom can get to know bats better during a celebration on Halloween (what better day to celebrate bats?) devoted exclusively to this special-not-spooky species.
At Conservation Station, guests can discover what bats like to eat and where they live. By participating in a variety of games and activities, they can learn cool bat facts and what all of us can do to be sure that bats “hang around.” Guests also can meet our bat keepers and find out how we care for the bats (Malayan Flying Foxes and Rodrigues fruit bats) that make their home on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Did you know?
Contrary to popular misconceptions, bats are not blind and do not become entangled in human hair.
As the only mammal capable of true flight, the more than 1,200 species of bats range in size from the world’s smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny, to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans.
Many bat species consume vast quantities of insects, including the most damaging agricultural pests. For example, a single little brown bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour.
Loss of bats increases demand for chemical pesticides. As insect-eating machines, bats save farmers billions of dollars annually.
From deserts to rainforests, nectar-feeding bats are critical pollinators for a wide variety of plants of great economic and ecological value.
During the night of July 27, before their release the next morning, Peach and Pearl laid their nests on the beach close to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. We have some very exciting news—both Peach’s and Pearl’s nests have hatched! After several weeks of incubation, in which the nests withstood Tropical Storm Isaac and many other localized storm events, 92 sea turtle hatchlings emerged from Pearl’s nest and made their way to the ocean. The nest had a total of 99 eggs, giving it an amazing 93% hatching success. Peach’s nest also had an impressive hatching success: 86 out of 89 eggs hatched.
As you can see from their Tour de Turtles maps, Peach and Pearl both headed for the Gulf of Mexico. Peach headed up toward the Florida panhandle, and Pearl has remained just offshore of Ft. Myers, Florida, where she has apparently found good foraging grounds with lots of tasty crustaceans. “Satellite tracking research helps scientists and conservationists identify important feeding areas and migration pathways for loggerhead sea turtles, such as Pearl and Peach,” notes Dan Evans, Technology & Research Specialist at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “Knowing where loggerheads go to feed and the path they take from nesting beaches to reach these feeding areas helps direct policy and regulations that protect sea turtles from potential threats in their feeding areas and during their journey.”
Did you know?
Guests can find out more about sea turtle satellite tracking when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and everyone can cheer on Peach and Pearl online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
With about a month to go in the race, Peach is in 5th place and Pearl is in 8th place. Of course, all sea turtles are winners when we help them by not leaving trash on the beach and by turning off lights at night when visiting the beach.
Disney’s Animal Programs team members have marked and monitored 1,381 loggerhead sea turtle nests, 220 green sea turtle nests, and 11 leatherback sea turtle nests so far during the 2012 nesting season, which ends in late October.
During the nesting season, guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series:
For my first Disney Parks Blog post, I am very pleased to share with you an example of how our animal care team is always striving to enhance both the guest and the animal experience at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge animal care team noticed that the red river hogs were using some natural mud wallows to stay cool in areas where the guests could not see them. They recognized that this is a natural behavior the guests would love to see, and went about filling in those natural wallows while creating a “deluxe version” where guests could get a good view. Then the animal care team figured out how to encourage the hogs to go to the new wallow, and reinforced that behavior. It wasn’t long before being in the new wallow became a highly desirable activity for the hogs. Now we have very happy hogs, happy animal keepers, happy savanna guides interpreting the behavior—and a wonderful natural behavior for guests to enjoy.
Did you know?
The savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge present an exceptional opportunity for guests to see African wildlife in a large, mixed-species habitat right outside the guests’ hotel rooms throughout the day and into the evening.
Although the selection of animals on the savanna often changes, in addition to the red river hogs, guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge may see giraffe, Ankole cattle, zebra, okapi, several species of antelope, Abyssinian ground hornbills and ostriches, among many others.
The red river hog is a wild member of the pig family that lives in western and central Africa. In the wild, red river hogs eat grasses, berries, roots, insects, small animals and carrion.
A myth that pops up from time to time is that elephants use their trunks to drink, like we would use a straw. This would be similar to people sticking their noses in a glass of water when they wanted a drink! Elephants, unlike people, do use their trunks to help them drink, but they only suck the water part of the way up and then use their trunks to squirt the water into their mouths.
The elephant’s trunk is a combination of their nose and upper lip and is able to touch, grasp and smell. In addition to sucking up water to squirt in their mouths and picking up food, elephants’ trunks are used for greeting, caressing, threatening and throwing dust over their bodies.
Guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom on September 26, Elephant Awareness Day, will learn lots of fun facts about elephants—and can even test their skills at eating like an elephant using a replica of an elephant trunk.
On Elephant Awareness Day, guests who stop by Rafiki’s Planet Watch can:
Learn what—and how much!—an elephant eats.
Color an elephant mask that they can take home.
Learn about the elephants that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including baby elephant Jabali who just celebrated his first birthday, and talk with members of our elephant care team.
Find out about our elephant conservation efforts in Africa, supported through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and cast member conservation programs, including how bee sounds are being used to help keep elephants away from crops.
This week, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) awarded more than $1.8 million to 75 organizations that were selected for their efforts to protect the world’s wildlife and to connect kids and communities to nature in 40 different countries.
I can remember when the DWCF was created in 1995, so I am especially proud to share that this year’s DWCF annual grants mark the $20 million milestone in conservation giving through this program – supporting more than 800 projects.
One of my favorite Walt Disney quotes is, “You’ve probably heard people talk about conservation. Well, conservation isn’t just the business of a few people, it’s a matter that concerns all of us.” The DWCF truly reaches out to enable many people — from youth volunteers restoring recreational sites in California’s San Bernardino National Forest, to scientists monitoring and training local educators about waterbirds in the Caohai Nature Reserve in China — to take conservation action.
Hats off to the incredible organizations and people who are having such a positive impact on the planet and working to ensure a bright future for the next generation! To see a complete list of 2012 DWCF grant recipients, as well as other information on Disney’s commitment to conservation, visit www.disney.com/conservation.
History tells us that ancient sailors – and maybe even Christopher Columbus – mistook manatees for mermaids. Guests visiting The Seas with Nemo & Friends on September 7 will be able to learn about these not-so-little mermaids during an International Manatee Day celebration.
Special activities are designed to help guests discover the reality behind the myths and how they can help protect manatees.
Did you know?
Manatees belong to a group of aquatic, plant-eating mammals called sirenians.
Their teeth are constantly being worn down by the abrasive plants they eat, but manatees grow replacement teeth throughout their lifetime.
Manatees can only be found in a few places around the world, including Florida, South America, Africa, and Australia.
Actions all of us can take to keep waterways clean, such as recycling used fishing line and plastic bottles, can protect these majestic mammals.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees (and sea turtles too) until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats The Seas participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other facilities and conservation groups, in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.
Rescued manatees Lou and Vail make their home at The Seas.
Vultures eat the carcasses of dead animals, helping prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases such as rabies and anthrax among animals and humans. So why don’t they get a stomach ache? Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (on September 1) and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (on September 5) will find out the answer to this and many other questions about these often-misunderstood birds during International Vulture Awareness Day celebrations.
Okay, so why don’t they get a stomach ache, or worse? Vultures are equipped with a digestive system that contains special acids that will dissolve many kinds of usually deadly bacteria. These acids also help them to digest the decaying meat and bones that make up their diet.
As strong as vultures’ stomachs are, they face challenges ranging from loss of habitat and food sources, to direct and indirect poisoning of food carcasses, to electrocution on power lines.
Guests can learn about vultures and conservation efforts to help these birds:
By participating in a variety of activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can try on a replica of vulture wings, create an arts-and-crafts vulture or vulture mask, learn about vulture digestion and take part in a vulture meet-and-greet, among other activities. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, activities include viewing vulture feedings, vulture mask coloring and the opportunity to examine vulture biofacts.
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.
International Vulture Awareness Day originated in South Africa in 2006 to raise awareness of the plight of vultures in that region. The event has expanded around the world, focusing on issues and conservation programs that are affecting these birds. Awareness and knowledge are the first steps in appreciating vultures, which are helping keep the earth cleaner and disease free. People also can support conservation efforts that are helping vultures. To learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.
Upcoming 2012 wildlife conservation events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (as always, dates subject to change):
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, including the just opened Lion King wing, taps into Disney’s rich legacy of beloved characters and stories. It also taps into another part of the Disney legacy; a commitment to conservation and the environment that began with our company’s founder, Walt Disney, and is a key focus of our present and future.
A few of the environmental enhancements at the new resort include:
Recycle bins in key locations in the resort’s public areas (the most for any resort on property) and, of course, recycle bins in every guest room.
Environmental information integrated into cast members’ overall training and guidelines.
Walt Disney World Resort maintains the state of Florida’s Green Lodging designation for all of its resort hotels. Disney’s BoardWalk Inn was among the first resorts in Florida to receive the designation when the program launched in 2004. As our newest resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will be undergoing the process required to achieve this designation after the final wing of the resort, themed after “The Little Mermaid,” opens in September. To achieve the Green Lodging designation, resorts must focus on five categories: water conservation, education and awareness, waste reduction, energy conservation and indoor air quality.
Sea turtle nesting season (May to October) is a hubbub of activity at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and the past couple of weeks have been no exception. In today’s blog post, I’m excited to share news on Cinderella the sea turtle’s nest and this year’s Tour de Turtles, as well as an amazing video of hatchlings emerging from their nest and heading to the sea.
The race is on in Tour de Turtles. Last Saturday morning, more than 500 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests cheered as two loggerhead sea turtles, who had laid their eggs on the beach the night before, returned to the sea. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released on the beach near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual Tour de Turtles event. The first turtle to swim the farthest will be declared the winner. The turtles are named after characters in the Disney•Pixar film “Finding Nemo.” Peach is sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and Pearl is sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Friends for Change.
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. Guests can find out about this research and follow the tracks of the turtles when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
Readers of the Disney Parks Blog will remember that a June 6 blog post told the story of Cinderella the sea turtle, who came up on the beach very late one night (after midnight, hence the name Cinderella) near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to lay her eggs. I promised to provide an update on the nest to report on how many hatchlings emerged. Cinderella’s nest is one of hundreds that Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor during sea turtle nesting season at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Cast members are marking new sea turtle nests daily, as well as monitoring existing nests until they hatch. Well, it was quite a summer for Cinderella’s nest. In late May, Tropical Storm Beryl washed over the nest. In early June, a large ghost crab took up residence a few feet from the nest, but, fortunately, didn’t do any digging at the nest site. In late June, Tropical Storm Debby washed over the nest. Sea turtle nests are quite vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, as they are likely to be inundated with water, which can harm the eggs. Cast members monitoring Cinderella’s nest in early July found a leatherback sea turtle hatchling that had been caught up in fishing line washed up on the beach. They freed the hatchling from the fishing line and released it at night, when it was cooler and the hatchling would be safer from predators.
Finally, in late July, the eggs in Cinderella’s nest hatched. We inventoried the nest, and she had a total of 121 eggs in the nest — 55 hatched and 66 didn’t. Why the low number of hatchlings? Well, Tropical Storm Debby seemed to have had an effect on her nest; she laid her nest in an area that received a lot of wave action over her nest, but still those 55 hatchlings made it to the ocean. That same day we inventoried another nest that was laid in the sand above Cinderella’s nest, and it had 123 eggs, of which 118 hatched and only 5 didn’t. Here is some video footage taken with special night vision equipment of hatchlings emerging from the nest. As for the hatchlings, you can see that we were very careful not to interfere with their ability to reach the ocean safely. We are excited to share this video of one of nature’s most amazing wonders. Enjoy!
Did you know?
In “Finding Nemo,” “Peach” is a starfish and “Pearl” is an octopus.
In the Tour de Turtles, each turtle acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Peach 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. Pearl is raising awareness about the threat of entanglement. Turtles can become tangled in trash and nets, and drown.
Each year, approximately 50,000 female sea turtles lay their eggs on Florida beaches, making the state’s beaches one of the most important nesting areas in the world. Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth and have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years. In the United States, as much as 90 percent of sea turtle nesting occurs in Florida, which serves as a primary nesting site for several species of endangered and threatened sea turtles.
Guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest. And, of course, people can help turtles year-round by taking action to reduce waste, save water and keep it clean, and reduce emissions.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series: