“Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono” – the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. This is our Hawai’i state motto, and it holds special meaning for all of us here in the 50th State. Through it, we have a glimpse of the importance that Hawaiians put on the land and environment. With our recent celebration of World Oceans Day at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, we wanted to share a little bit more about how we celebrate mauka to makai – from the mountains to the sea – perpetuating our environment. From guest activities to our VoluntEARS programs, caring for our island home remains a focal point in all that we do. Enjoy this video, and aloha!
posted on June 11th, 2015 by Todd Apo, Director, Public Affairs, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
posted on June 10th, 2015 by Katie Marini, Education Manager, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Tomorrow is Pollinator Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
Pollinators are an essential part of our lives as their everyday work ensures full harvests, healthy plants and beautiful flowers. Did you know there are more than 200,000 different species of pollinators? Many you may see in your own backyard! Bees, beetles, ants, butterflies, hummingbirds and even bats are all pollinators!
Here are a few quick and easy tips you can do to help these animals keep our world beautiful and healthy:
- Plant for pollinators! Ask your local nursery what kinds of plants attract certain animals. Want butterflies? How about bees? You have experts in your very own community that can help you determine what to grow in your area to attract your local pollinators and give them food and homes.
- Reduce your impact by minimizing or eliminating your use of potentially harmful pesticides. If pesticides are necessary in your area, apply them at night when most pollinators aren’t active.
- Create your very own watering hole. A suspended milk carton with a pinhole in the bottom is sufficient for some insects. Other species, like butterflies, need a small container of water. Refill these containers as often as you can.
- Get connected with nature! Take a walk, experience the landscape and look for pollinators in sunny, planted areas.
At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, we will play interactive games, answer trivia questions and highlight how we can help pollinators all over the world. Join us at the “Elephants and Bees” display to learn how Dr. Joseph Soltis, research scientist for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, and teammates are using the knowledge gained from studying our elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to help humans, bees and elephants live in harmony in Kenya. Our smaller guests can transform into human-sized bees during “Build-a-Bee,” and we will show clips from Disneynature’s “Wings of Life” film. If we are lucky, we may even catch some of our pollinating pals in action!
Pollinators are truly “buzzworthy” workers that provide us with one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat (including chocolate!) and give us a bright, beautiful, colorful world. Celebrate with us at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and show appreciation for pollinators every day. You can learn even more about pollinators and plants in your area by visiting pollinator.org.
posted on June 8th, 2015 by Rachel Bshero, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator
Today is World Oceans Day, a day dedicated to reflecting on how we can help ensure the future health of our planet and minimize the impact on one of the Earth’s most precious resources — the oceans.
For the past several years, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium to select wild and farmed seafood for our menus that are not overfished or produced in ways that may compromise the well-being of our oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.
Our chefs are always coming up with innovative ways to incorporate sustainable seafood into their menus. From the Grilled Alaskan Wild-Caught Halibut served at Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to the Grilled Snapper at Napa Rose, our signature dining locations deliver nothing but the best. Our focus isn’t just on fine dining. Disney chefs work to incorporate sustainable seafood into as many of our menus as possible throughout our parks and resorts. Other dishes not to be missed include the Grilled Blacks Harbour Salmon at Flying Fish Café at Disney’s BoardWalk and the Yellow Tail Tuna at Ariel’s Grotto in Disneyland Resort. For a great quick-service option, check out the Spicy Fish Tacos at Sunshine Seasons, located in the Land Pavilion at Epcot. Remember, as the seasons change, so may the selections, but rest assured that they are all delicious!
Our commitment to the health of our oceans doesn’t stop in our restaurants. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has teamed up with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership to fund projects that focus on shrimp from regions where our suppliers source seafood: U.S. Gulf of Mexico, southern Vietnam and Thailand. This collaboration has lead to:
- Development of a standard for Fair Trade fish
- Training on sustainable fishing/shrimping practices and better water resource management in fisheries in Vietnam and Thailand
- Studies that examine impact of shrimping practices on “bycatch” species.
Angie Renner, Environmental Integration Director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, shares the importance of this commitment: “This is a perfect blend of both environmental and business sustainability, which will enable us to continue serving seafood that is healthy for our Guests as well as the oceans.”
You can learn more about how you can make a difference in your seafood choices by checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide.
Happy World Oceans Day from the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Food and Beverage team!
posted on June 3rd, 2015 by Sara Green, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort
World Oceans Day is June 8, but The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is celebrating today! For those of you who might not be able to join the festivities, we wanted to introduce you to one of the marine animals you can see up close at The Seas.
Luna is a black-blotched fantail stingray with a wingspan of 66 inches – that’s about the size of a banquet table for 10! – and currently weighs nearly 400 pounds. The aquarists who care for her were amazed how quickly Luna learned to touch a “target,” in this case a flat acrylic piece that Luna could swim to. Target objects are used to teach an animal to go to a specific location.
Soon thereafter, Luna was following the target onto the underwater viewing windows, where our guests have the unique experience of watching her eat. It is an awesome moment to see Luna literally inches from their faces.
Stingrays like Luna can be found off the shores of southern Australia and are relatives of sharks. Sharks and rays need our help as they are overfished at a rate faster than they can produce young. You can help by learning to choose your seafood wisely.
Come see Luna, and look for the circular stingray with black blotches on the dorsal surface. You can’t miss her beautiful smooth wave-like motions as she swims through The Seas!
posted on June 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks
Earlier this year, thousands of you voted to name our female baby rhino Kiama. She has been growing rapidly – gaining about three or four pounds a day – and now you can see her during your next adventure on Kilimanjaro Safaris!
The young white rhino just stepped on to the savanna for the first time. Kiama weighs about 400 pounds, while her mom Kendi is closer to 4,000 pounds! Kendi was born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1999.
Kiama stays close to her mom, and sometimes breaks away to play in the dirt or investigate different noises. Then, she playfully runs back to the safety of her mom. They are a joy to watch, and I hope you have the opportunity to see them exploring the savanna soon! You can help rhinos in the wild by purchasing only “wildlife-friendly” products and never buying products made from rhino horns. You also can support organizations like the Disney Conservation Fund and the International Rhino Foundation, which are both active in rhino research and conservation. Learn more about rhinos and other animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot at DisneyAnimals.com.
posted on May 29th, 2015 by Sara Green, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort
While World Oceans Day is recognized globally on June 8, you can join us at the perfect venue — The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot — on June 3 to get a head start on the festivities! After you enjoy the attraction with Nemo, Marlin, Dory and all your fishy friends, stick around to explore our huge 5.7 million-gallon aquarium to see and learn all about tropical fish, stingrays, sea turtles and even sharks!
You may already know it’s tough to be a bug, but do you know how tough it is to be a sea turtle? You can catch a glimpse into the lives of sea turtles from their very first day of life. Our replica sea turtle nest will be on display for you to get an up-close view into a sea turtle’s journey. You can also experience an interactive model of a turtle excluder device (TED) which is used on fishing boats to prevent sea turtles from getting caught in trawl nets. Sea turtles face seemingly insurmountable odds, but people all over the world are doing their part to protect these magnificent animals. Come visit The Seas with Nemo & Friends to learn what you can do to help, too.
Coral conservation activities will be another highlight of our celebration. Did you know coral reefs are known as the rainforests of the ocean? That’s because while they only make up about 0.2 percent of the area on the planet, coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of the world’s marine life! These reefs are in danger because of the many threats to coral including ocean pollution, climate change, poor fishing practices and more, but teams at The Seas with Nemo & Friends are committed to saving them. We have been working on coral restoration, community involvement and education in The Bahamas to restore local reefs through coral transplantation and sea urchin translocation. You will be able to speak with members of the team directly involved in these projects and more!
Even though not all of us may live by the ocean, everyone can play a part in protecting this essential ecosystem. Oceans play a major role in our everyday lives, and they are worth celebrating each and every day!
posted on May 27th, 2015 by Rachel Daneault, Primate-Carnivore Zoological Manager
Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team takes outstanding care of the animals at Walt Disney World Resort. You may have seen some of them in action at the Vet Hospital at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or explaining some of the studies they are conducting at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. But did you know that these same cast members often travel the world to help animals and support conservation projects in the wild?
Dr. Natalie Mylniczenko and vet tech Matt Runnells recently traveled to Africa to complete health exams on some of the gorillas at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.
At GRACE, Grauer’s gorillas who are orphaned (typically because poachers killed their parents for the exotic animal trade or bushmeat) receive the care they need and learn the skills needed for reintroduction back into the wild. Our cast members have played many roles with GRACE including designing the facility, engaging in hands-on construction, helping move gorillas and training Congolese staff to care for gorillas. In addition to gorilla care, Disney staff also help promote conservation education among the local residents.
During the most recent trip, Dr. Natalie and Matt worked with the GRACE staff to immobilize two gorillas by hand-injecting the gorillas to anesthetize them. This is a huge accomplishment for the staff, as it is a very complex behavior to train and shows their dedication to the work they do.
Both gorillas were given complete physicals, and both needed tooth extractions. The exams went very well, and GRACE staff members learned a great deal from Dr. Natalie and Matt. Sharing resources, knowledge and expertise is one way our team supports animals in the wild. Click through the gallery below for images from their latest trip.
Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrate and Learn More About Turtles at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Walt Disney World Resort
posted on May 20th, 2015 by Blair Witherington, Senior Sea Turtle Biologist
Tomorrow is World Turtle Day®! To celebrate, we’ll have activities to satisfy your curiosity and inspire conservation of these magnificent animals.
At Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can try on a turtle shell, see how biologists find gopher tortoises in their underground burrows, learn how to best keep turtles as pets, attempt to untangle a plush sea turtle from fishing line using only your “flippers” and much more! At the Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, you’ll be able to step through a turtle-excluder device. TEDs are special devices fishermen use in a trawl net to allow turtles an escape route if they are accidentally caught. You can also play interactive games to learn about the threats turtles face, while our sea turtles swim behind you in our 5.7 million-gallon tank. At both locations, you will have opportunities to ask specialists about our turtles and what they need to survive.
In honor of the holiday, we have an exclusive Disney Parks Blog update from our Conservation Team. Many of you may remember last year’s Tour de Turtles at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort during which we attached satellite transmitters to two female loggerhead sea turtles that came ashore at the resort to lay their eggs. Affectionately named Anna and Elsa after our favorite “Frozen” Arendelle royals, the two ladies have been travelling hundreds of miles since we watched them return to the sea last summer.
Anna, the smaller of the two, had healed scars on her shell from an old boat-propeller injury. Ever resilient, Anna was able to swim in the Tour de Turtles. Because each turtle in Tour de Turtles is connected to an issue that threatens sea turtles, Anna swam to raise awareness about the threat of light pollution. Bright beachfront lighting from buildings and streetlights can deter nesting females and draw hatchling turtles away from the ocean, which is very dangerous for them.
With a crowd of well-wishers cheering her on, Anna crawled down the beach at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and back into the Atlantic Ocean. For about a week, Anna swam and drifted within Florida’s coastal waters and then headed south along the coast of eastern Florida. This means that the nest she made in late July was her last of the season. If Anna was like most loggerheads, this would have been her fifth nest!
Anna’s travels south took her to Key West, where she looped around the island and settled into a beautiful shallow seagrass pasture just north of the popular tourist destination. (Perhaps it reminded her of Arendelle?) Anna’s journey has totaled 661 miles!
Elsa, the larger of the two female loggerheads, has a 40-inch long shell—that’s the height of an average 4-year old human! Elsa is swimming to raise awareness about the troubling amount of plastic debris in our oceans that many turtles mistake for food.
After Elsa left Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, she drifted for a few weeks within Florida’s offshore waters and eventually headed south. Like Anna, Elsa also swam toward Key West, but soon found her own path. She turned south to cross the Florida current toward Cuba. The strong, Gulf Stream current must have diverted her to the east, which put her on course for the Cay Sal Bank, a rich area of shallow seagrass between the United States and Cuba. This is where Elsa stayed for several months, until just recently when she looped closer to Cuba and back toward Cay Sal. Elsa’s journey has totaled 1,929 miles! That’s the distance from Orlando to Nova Scotia!
Want to learn more about turtles and our work to help conserve them? If you’re staying at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort this summer during nesting season, you can participate in a turtle night walk, during which you may see a female sea turtle lay her eggs on the beach! You can also check out our next Tour de Turtles event August 1 at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and don’t forget to celebrate turtles for World Turtle Day and every day at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and The Seas with Nemo & Friends!
Wildlife Wednesday: Scientists Provide Great Care for Animal Moms and Babies at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
posted on May 13th, 2015 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager
Giraffes, white rhinos, sable antelopes, gorillas and a red river hog were among the animals that celebrated their first Mother’s Day this past Sunday at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The Science Operations team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is hard at work helping provide great care for our animal moms and babies. Our team performs pregnancy tests almost every day for animals in the park and at the Lodge. We can predict the mother’s due date to help animal keepers prepare for the delivery, and in some species we can even determine whether the baby will be a girl or a boy!
How do these tests work? By doing tests to measure an animal’s hormone levels. We share our findings with other scientists by publishing them in scholarly journals, and our endocrinologists mentor scientists here at Disney and advise others at zoos around the world on our techniques.
You can see our scientists in action at the Science Center at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
Did you know?
- Endocrinologists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom perform 20,000 hormone tests each year!
- Giraffe are 6 feet tall at birth.
- White rhinos are pregnant for 17 months.
- Newborn sable antelope are born with a light, sandy brown coat that will gradually darken as they mature.
- A newborn gorilla is able to cling to its mother’s front with a very powerful grip from both its hands and feet.
- Red river piglets “play possum” when they get scared. This means they pretend to be unconscious when approached by a potential predator.
Congratulations to our mothers here at Disney and all over the world!
posted on May 9th, 2015 by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, Walt Disney World Resort
Today is International Migratory Bird Day, and we are celebrating at Disney’s Animal Kingdom by honoring the hundreds of species of migratory birds that need our help. One of the greatest conservation efforts of our time made a significant impact at the event—the whooping crane. This majestic, larger-than-life crane has been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction.
In 1860, there were about 1,400 cranes—an already troubling number. In 1941, however, numbers had dwindled to merely 15 birds. Hunting, the popularity of the feather trade and negative human impacts on their habitat hit the bird population hard.
In an effort to save this bird species, the Whooping Crane Recovery Team was established. However, with all the birds concentrated in one flock and inhabiting the same areas, the population was more susceptible to being wiped out entirely by disease, bad weather or negative human impacts. The future of the whooping crane depended on establishing additional, separated populations and thus the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership was developed to raise another population of whooping cranes, centralized in the eastern United States.
Raising whooping cranes isn’t as simple as it may sound. The chicks rescued from the wild need to be taught to eat, forage, fly and even migrate. Scientists raise the birds from hatchlings and don white suits that cover their faces so the birds do not recognize them as humans and learn to rely on them for food once they are in the wild. The suits have a whooping crane puppet head on one arm that scientists peck at the ground to show young birds how to eat.
In 1994, Bill Lishman and Joe Duff pioneered the migratory initiative, “Operation Migration” in which they lead a group of Canada geese from Ontario to Virginia to prove that it was possible to train birds to follow a small plane called an ultra-light. This story may seem familiar because just one year later, both Lishman and Duff helped with production of the Columbia Pictures film, “Fly Away Home” that followed a similar plot line.
With the precedent set, in 1999, Operation Migration led the first group of whooping cranes on their migration route. The route of the secondary flock established in the eastern United States spans the country from Wisconsin to here in Florida. Once they fly their migration route first led by an ultra-light, they will remember the way for life. The Disney Conservation Fund was one of the first to support the organization and has continued to support this organization ever since.
Since 2006, Disney’s animal care team has performed health exams on all the young migratory birds to ensure they are in good condition following their migration. Our Animal, Science and Environment team has also assisted in monitoring and training of the new chicks in efforts to prepare them for their release into the wild.
While progress has been made with these cranes, they are still the most endangered crane in the world; fewer than 500 cranes exist today.
Every spring, for International Migratory Bird Day, Disney welcomes the crew from Operation Migration to share their experiences with our guests. Just three years ago, Disney was pleased to welcome a new addition to the exhibit at Conservation Station. Operation Migration donated one of their original ultra-lights and it has remained on display at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, allowing us to share this inspiring story year round! For more information on whooping cranes and how you can help, check out the International Crane Foundation.