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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.

Ways in Which Disney Florida Resorts Promote Conservation Ways in Which Disney Florida Resorts Promote Conservation

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.

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

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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Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’

posted on October 23rd, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Hanging up bat decorations for Halloween is great holiday fun but at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we also want to keep real bats hanging around. Bats play a critical role in nature, helping to control pests and pollinate countless plants, including delicious fruits like bananas and mangoes.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’

On Halloween, we’re celebrating Bat Day with special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch where guests will discover that bats are cool, not creepy. Guests can enter a “bat cave” and test their skills at identifying North American bats. Fun games help guests learn what bats eat and what challenges they face. Guests also can meet our bat keepers and find out how we care for the bats that make their home on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They might even see one of our bats getting its wellness exam in the Veterinary Hospital.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’ Wildlife Wednesdays: Halloween Celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Helps to Keep Bats ‘Hanging Around’

Did you know?

  • The Malayan Flying Fox, which guests can see on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, is one of the largest bats in the world with a wingspan of close to 6 feet. Another bat species at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the Rodrigues fruit bat.
  • Contrary to popular myths, bats are not blind and do not become entangled in human hair.
  • For 2013, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) is supporting Bat Conservation International projects that are helping to protect long-nosed bats in the Caribbean, golden-capped fruit bats in the Philippines and straw-colored bats in Africa. This year, the DWCF also is supporting a Lubee Bat Conservancy project that is helping flying foxes in Madagascar.
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Worldwide Conservation Leaders Gather at Walt Disney World Resort to Focus on ‘One Plan’ Approach to Help Wildlife

posted on October 16th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Did you know that the beautiful golden lion tamarin — which guests can see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom — might be extinct in its native Brazil if zoological facilities hadn’t helped? With fewer than 200 left, zoos around the world banded together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins born in their facilities to the wild. These animals joined wild golden lion tamarins to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
A Golden Lion Tamarin, Like the Ones Guests Can See at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Most people think of zoos, aquariums and other wildlife parks as great places to see amazing animals and to connect with nature—and they are. What people may not be aware of is all of the conservation work that these facilities do and what a huge impact they have. This includes, of course, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot.

Over the past week, we’ve been proud to host here at the Walt Disney World Resort conservation leaders from around the world. Some are here as part of their attendance at the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) Annual Meeting. (CBSG is a global network of conservation professionals.) The remainder are here to attend the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Annual Conference. (WAZA members are leading zoos, aquariums and related organizations from around the world.)
Jörg Junhold, Director, Leipzig Zoo, Germany, and Gerald Dick, WAZA Executive Director, with Jackie Ogden

The success of the effort to save golden lion tamarins is a great example of what CBSG and WAZA members refer to as a “One Plan” approach to species conservation, with a goal of one comprehensive conservation plan for wildlife whether they are in human care or in their native habitats.

Did you know?

  • Golden lion tamarins are an endangered species native to Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forest. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has helped support long-term conservation efforts to protect the golden lion tamarin’s forest home.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom also is home to two other tamarin species: emperor tamarins and cotton-top tamarins (visit www.proyectotiti.com to find out more about conservation efforts led by Dr. Anne Savage, Conservation Director at Disney’s Animal Kingdom).
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Wildlife Wednesdays: Excellent Care Includes a Visit to the Veterinary Hospital for New Gorilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on October 9th, 2013 by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Animal Health Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Excellence in animal care is a top priority at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and our Animal Health team provides a wide array of veterinary services to care for the animals that make their home here. These include regular wellness exams, surgical procedures, oversight of pregnancies and births, and emergency medicine.

Included among the wellness exams is what we refer to as a quarantine exam. When an animal comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, that animal spends time in a special area known as quarantine to help ensure that they won’t pass along any diseases when they join the rest of the animals in their group. A quarantine exam by our veterinarians is part of this process.

Azizi, A New Female Gorilla Who Recently Joined the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Family

A few months ago, a new female gorilla, Azizi, joined the Disney’s Animal Kingdom family. Here’s a video of Azizi’s quarantine exam.

Now, guests can see Azizi with the rest of our gorilla family group on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Our primate team shared that Azizi spends lots of time playing with young gorilla Lilly, who is now three years old, and doing great.

Did you know?

  • The state-of-the-art veterinary facilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom include an X-ray room, ultrasound equipment, surgical suites and full-service laboratories. Veterinarians and technicians use these tools to focus on preventative health and creating new methods to diagnose and treat animals, ranging in size from a two-gram poison dart frog to a 13,000-pound African elephant.
  • During a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can find out how Disney is helping save some special primates — orphan gorillas in Africa — at GRACE (Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center) with help from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). The DWCF has given more than $2 million to support conservation projects that protect primates.
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