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Wildlife Wednesday: Cotton-top Tamarins Are ‘On the Move’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on October 15th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of excitement, updates and changes! Even some of the animals are in on the excitement, including two cotton-top tamarins, Gemma and Draco, who just moved into a new home.

Gemma, a female tamarin, has been delighting guests at Rafiki’s Planet Watch since December 2000 where she was voted “best personality” by her keepers. In March 2011, she moved to Discovery Island to debut the remodeled tamarin island in front of the Tree of Life. This week she was joined by Draco for her second grand opening in a brand new exhibit which will bring their world even closer to guests. Draco, a male tamarin, has spent most of his life with his parents and five siblings in an indoor exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo. He joined us at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in August. His debut will mark the first time he has experienced an outdoor exhibit! He has already been observed chasing lizards in his backstage area.

Cotton-top Tamarin Draco at Disney's Animal Kingdom Cotton-top Tamarin Gemma at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Since his arrival, Draco also has spent time becoming acquainted with his new mate, Gemma. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) identified the pair as potential mates within its Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP works to ensure long-term survival of species by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals. Through the efforts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SSP, more than 300 cotton-top tamarins are cooperatively managed in more than 80 U.S. zoos. Over the past few weeks, Gemma and Draco have shown great interest in each other, and we believe they will be happy and successful mates.

Cotton-top Tamarin Exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Cotton-top Tamarin Exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

While Gemma and Draco finish acclimating and comfortably settle into their new home over the next few weeks, their job as animal ambassadors is just beginning! The cotton-top tamarin is one of the most endangered primates in the world. A 2008 census conducted by our partners at Proyecto Tití in Colombia concluded that only 7,500 cotton-tops remained in the wild, and the population has been severely impacted by habitat destruction throughout its range in Colombia. This information prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Primate Specialist Group to recommend changing the classification of cotton-top tamarins from Endangered to Critically Endangered in 2008. Since then, Proyecto Tití increased their public outreach and education programs, stopped the development of a proposed airport, and secured two new protected areas for cotton-top tamarins and other wildlife to live safely in Colombia. The impact of the work is beginning to pay off, as we find communities are embracing conservation efforts and the population of cotton-tops appears stable!

One outreach program 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 beautiful, colorful tote bags called ‘eco-mochilas’. These unique and environmentally friendly totes are sold locally in Colombia, online, and at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purchasing an eco-mochila helps communities in Colombia earn money for their families and protect forests that the cotton-top tamarins call home.

Don’t miss next week’s Wildlife Wednesday post to see Gemma and Draco in their new home, learn more about cotton-top conservation work and how education programs beginning in younger generations are positively affecting communities in Colombia. Until then, check out the video below to see some of the conservation work Proyecto Tití has already accomplished!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference!

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


At the recent annual Association of Zoos and Aquariums meeting, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was recognized for our success with breeding a very special African bird. We received Top Honors (1st place) as the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award recipient for our Taveta golden weaver sustainability program.

The Edward H. Bean Award is a historic award within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognizing rearing or management programs that contribute to the reproductive success of one or more species (and/or subspecies). Award eligibility takes into account the significance of the breeding program for the conservation of the species and the long-term commitment to the breeding program. It identifies a truly significant effort that clearly enhances the conservation of a species.

Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference! Wildlife Wednesday: Congratulations to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Awarded Prestigious Conservation Award at AZA Conference!

From 1998-2014, our Aviary team successfully bred over 900 Taveta golden weaver chicks, which was instrumental in safeguarding the North American population. These chicks now live in AZA accredited zoos across the country, helping ensure that we maintain a genetically diverse population. To help the overall profession, the team also published two articles in scientific peer reviewed journals, and they have shared research findings and best practices at various conference sessions over the years. Please join me in congratulating all who have worked to conserve this species (and many others) since Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998!

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Did you know … ?

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Aviary team also received the Edward H. Bean Award in 2008 for success with Carmine Bee-eaters.
  • Disney’s Animal Programs cast members are a part of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team. In addition to caring for the many animals at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, the team strives to inspire Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to lead the way in environmental stewardship and connect people, animals, and plants to conserve nature for future generations.
  • Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team includes cast members who specialize in education, veterinary care, conservation, marine and land animals, and everything in between!
  • Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members also partner with various organizations to conserve wildlife and wild places across the globe.

Don’t miss next week’s Wildlife Wednesday to learn more about the exciting work of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team!

For more from the Wildlife Wednesday series, visit the posts below:

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Wildly Spooky Treats at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on September 26th, 2014 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


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As it gets closer to Halloween, we keep scaring up more and more treats at Walt Disney World Resort. Recently, I shared the ghoulish delights you can find at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, so now let’s take a look at some of the frightfully fantastic treats you can find at our other Walt Disney World theme parks.

Kusafiri Bakery and Isle of Java in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park are serving up creepy concoctions. I couldn’t resist this adorable demitasse mug, which combines some of my favorite things—Minnie Mouse, pumpkins and chocolate mousse. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, the chocolate brownie with spooky sprinkles is to die for, while a sweet pumpkin muffin is a perfect way to start a fall morning.

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I adore gummy candies, so I was especially excited about the Spooky Worms ‘n Dirt Sundae from Discovery Island Ice Cream. A scoop of your favorite flavor gets topped with crushed chocolate cookies, gummy worms, whipped cream and spooky sprinkles. You’ll also find the frightful Bat Cupcake—chocolate cake topped with white icing, sprinkles and a chocolate bat.

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If cupcakes are your favorite, you’re not going to want to miss the bewitching offerings at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sunshine Seasons at Epcot is brewing up a chocolate Witch Cupcake with a peanut butter filling. If you’re craving carrot cake, head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for their tasty take on this cupcake. Which witch will you choose?

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Wildlife Wednesday: Welcome a New Western Lowland Gorilla to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on September 24th, 2014 by Rachel Daneault, Primate-Carnivore Zoological Manager


‘Ni kijana!’ is Swahili phrase that means ‘It’s a boy!’ This exciting exclamation was heard on September 3rd when we celebrated the arrival of a new baby in the gorilla family troop at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Our avid Disney Parks Blog readers might be thinking, “Didn’t you just announce a new gorilla baby?” Yes, we did! This is the second gorilla birth this year, and the fifth in the park’s history. The first gorilla birth at Disney’s Animal Kingdom occurred in 1997 before the park opened, the second baby arrived in 1999 and the third was born in 2010.
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Western lowland gorillas are born with dark brown to black hair, black skin, and brown or reddish hair on their head. Mature males of breeding age develop silver or gray coloring on their backs and are consequently known as “silverbacks.” Juvenile and young-adult male gorillas are called “blackbacks” because they have yet to develop the silver markings. The diet of Western lowland gorillas is very diverse, including over 200 distinct species of plants, mainly leaves, buds, shoots, roots, bark and fruit. In the tropical rainforests of western Africa where they live, termites and ants are also great snack options. Unfortunately, West African rainforests are shrinking due to human encroachment and land clearing connected to agriculture and other pressures. Coltan is a mineral used in the production of cell phones, and mining for this mineral makes habitats unsuitable for gorillas and other wildlife. Recycling old cell phones and other electronics is a great way to reduce the need for coltan mining and, in turn, help conserve these amazing animals and their habitat.

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All Western lowland gorilla babies born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures long-term survival of species by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals. Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species that face threats that include disease and illegal bushmeat hunting in the wild. In addition to supporting the gorilla SSP, Disney also contributes to gorilla conservation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), which has provided more than $700,000 in conservation grants to 14 nonprofit organizations focused on research and conservation of Western lowland gorillas, cross-river gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas and mountain gorillas.
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While we celebrate and welcome the newest baby gorilla here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, remember that you can join us in taking action to help gorillas and other wildlife. Recycle old cell phones to protect gorillas’ habitats from mining, and visit Disney.com/conservation to learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts and discover new ways to support conservation near you!

If you missed the last gorilla baby announcement, click here to view the story and catch up on all the excitement!

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‘Festival of the Lion King’ Celebrates 1 Million Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Since Reopening

posted on September 20th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Earlier this week, the cast of the popular stage show “The Festival of The Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom marked a major milestone – 1 million guests have attended the show since it reopened in the new Harambe Theatre this past June.

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The LePage Family from Colorado Springs, CO, were the lucky 1 millionth family, and were recognized with front-row seats and a special meet-and-greet opportunity with the show’s cast after the performance concluded.

In case you aren’t familiar with the show, “The Festival of The Lion King” is a fun retelling of the story of Simba the lion cub that is told through song, dance, acrobatics, aerial performances and more. It debuted at the park in Camp Minnie-Mickey in 1998. The show relocated to the new Harambe Theatre in the Africa section of the park earlier this year.

What do you enjoy most about this show? Tell us in the “Comments” section below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Elephants and Rhinos on September 23

posted on September 17th, 2014 by Erin Gallagher, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to over 1,800 animals who serve as ambassadors to their counterparts in the wild. Cast members work to educate guests through activities like Wilderness Explorers, exploration trails and attractions like Kilimanjaro Safaris. Helping protect wildlife and wild places is at the core of The Walt Disney Company and recognizing the intrinsic value of nature is a guiding principle of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Throughout the day, in locations across the park, conservation messages are shared and calls to action prompt guests to learn more about endangered species and ways to get involved even after returning home.

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Conservation Station is a great place to continue your adventure and learn about conservation efforts taking place at the park. Through informative hands-on exhibits and a viewable onsite research facility, Conservation Station invites you to uncover the mysteries of the wild—and to go behind the scenes of Disney’s efforts to promote conservation awareness.

For guests interested in elephants, rhinos, and conservation efforts for these great animals, September 23 will be a great day to visit as Conservation Station hosts Elephant and Rhino Day, a celebration dedicated to two beautiful, but endangered animal species. Education cast members will staff hands-on activities, the work of the Animal Nutrition Center will be highlighted and Animal Keepers from the Elephant, Savannahs, and Ituri Forest teams will be present to share information and answer questions related to the animal-care profession. Guests will also have the opportunity to speak with representatives from various conservation organizations including the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to learn more about opportunities to get involved.

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Let us know what you do to help conserve wildlife and wild places in your area!

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Caption This: DINOSAUR Greets Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on September 15th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week’s “Caption This” image was shot inside a popular attraction at Disney’s Animal KingdomDINOSAUR.

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What’s on this guy’s mind as the Time Rover approaches? You tell us. Go ahead and “Caption This” photo in the comments section below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) Announces 2014 Grant Recipients & Surpasses $25 Million Granted

posted on September 10th, 2014 by Kim Sams, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Conservation Programs, The Walt Disney Company


If you’ve recently enjoyed a Disney visit, you probably had the opportunity to support the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). There are plenty of ways you may have contributed – adding a dollar to your purchase, picking up a sponsored pin or plush item, enjoying the Wild Africa Trek excursion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or snorkeling at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Every donation, big or small, adds up and is combined with support from Disney, which in turn has given all of us something amazing to celebrate.

Including the 141 grants being awarded this week, we have contributed more than $25 million dollars to study wildlife, protect habitats and develop community conservation and education programs across the globe and here in Florida.

This week, our office shared the good news with more than 100 nonprofit organizations who will divide $3.5 million dollars in 2014 conservation grants to support projects benefiting wildlife and habitats spanning five continents –from lions in Tanzania and elephants in China to giant armadillos in Brazil and monk seals in Hawaii. To see a list of all the 2014 DWCF grant recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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Today the world is losing species at up to 10,000 times the natural rate, which makes doing what we can to protect the wonder of nature more important than ever. Thank YOU for joining us as we work with experts to reverse the decline of threatened species around the globe and build the next generation of conservationists.

What inspires you to protect the planet?

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Programs Nutrition Team Prepares Hundreds of Meals Each Day

posted on September 3rd, 2014 by Eduardo Valdes, PhD., Animal Nutrition Operations Manager


In the early morning hours, while many of us are fast asleep, the Animal Nutrition Team is busy preparing and delivering balanced and individual diets for over 2,000 animals at Walt Disney World Resort.

The job of an animal nutritionist and the Nutrition Team is quite involved as they work to assess the diet of each animal based on various data including weight, physiological stage of the animal, food sensitivities, animal health and food options available to prepare the diets, among others. Every animal has a diet sheet, but diets might be adjusted and supplements (like vitamins to humans) are added depending on the specific needs of the animal.

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The Animal Nutrition Team works with partners around the world to continuously assess diet options and aid in research. The research data gathered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been used to help improve around 18 animal nutrition products regularly used by the zoo community today.

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Some of the research is actually helping conserve endangered animals like the Puerto Rican Crested Toad that can be found at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Nutrition data and best practices in caring for the parents and tadpoles are gathered and noted for future generations. Then, twice a year, tadpoles are sent back to Puerto Rico to be released and continue increasing numbers in the wild.

You can learn more about animal nutrition from a member of our team on your next visit to Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Update on the Wallaby Joey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom– ‘It’s a boy!’

posted on August 27th, 2014 by Andre Daneault, Animal Operations Manager


Earlier this year, we shared with you the exciting news of a wallaby joey that could be seen at the Oasis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Now that the joey has grown a bit, we can share that “It’s a boy!” and his name is Ozzie. His first time coming out of his mom’s pouch was in April. He gradually spent more and more time out of the pouch and is now pretty independent. He is eating solid foods and currently weighs in at 2.3kg! (The weight range for adults is 4-9kg.)

Wildlife Wednesday: Update on the  Wallaby Joey at Disney’s Animal   Kingdom– 'It’s a boy!' Wildlife Wednesday: Update on the  Wallaby Joey at Disney’s Animal   Kingdom– 'It’s a boy!'

If you are looking for Ozzie on your next visit to the park, he is most active during the cooler parts of the day, mornings and after late day rains. Wallabies are just one of the many interesting wildlife species that can be found at the Oasis Exhibits as you begin your adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Be sure to also look for Giant Anteater, Babarusa (an exotic boar), Barking Deer, Spoonbill Stork and Macaws!!

To learn more about Wallabies or if you missed the first story … you can check it out here!

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