Great news! The injured wild whooping crane that was cared for at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was released back into the wild this past weekend. Disney’s Animal Programs zoological manager Scott Tidmus (he is pictured holding the crane in the veterinary hospital photo) accompanied the bird on its trip from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Tennessee, where it was released in the company of other wild whooping cranes.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, no other whooping crane from this population has ever been captured, transported to a medical facility, treated, and successfully re-released back into the wild over the 12 years of a special program aimed at establishing an eastern migrating population of whooping cranes.
We received word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Crane Foundation (ICF) that the injured whooping crane had been observed by residents in the area. The whooping crane is part of a reintroduction project with which our team has significant experience through cooperation with groups such as the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and Operation Migration, conservation groups that are helping protect these animals. Members of our animal operations team traveled to South Florida to bring the bird to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to receive care. Caring for — and, in this case, capturing — a wild whooping crane calls for special preparations, including wearing white costumes and head coverings until the bird’s sight can be blocked by using a cloth eye covering. The goal is for the birds not to get imprinted on humans.
Upon arrival at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the whooping crane received a full medical examination, and, although the bird’s injury did require amputation of the affected toe, the bird is adjusting well, and we hope that she will soon be released back into the wild.
Did you know?
Each year, a new group of hand-reared whooping cranes makes its first migration south from Wisconsin to Florida through Operation Migration. The rare birds are led by ultralight aircraft flown by the pilots of the Operation Migration team. Threats such as habitat loss and unregulated hunting brought the whooping crane population to an alarming low of only 15 birds in the early 1940s.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported Operation Migration since its inception in 2000 to help grow the migratory population of these cranes and to develop and refine this innovative model, which might help other species.
The International Crane Foundation helps protect and conserve crane species around the world. The crane being treated in the veterinary hospital at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was raised by the ICF for release into the wild in 2012. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported the ICF and many initiatives around the globe to help cranes.
Disney’s Animal Programs animal keepers assist with the hand-rearing of whooping crane chicks, and team members monitor the cranes during their initial arrival in Florida. The veterinary team performs health exams on the chicks before they are released to start their acclimation to the wild following their migration.
Inside Conservation Station at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can see our Operation Migration exhibit, which includes an ultralight aircraft used to lead the whooping cranes on their migration, and find out more about this amazing story.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we want to share compelling stories with our guests about as many different species as we can to inspire the conservation of wildlife and nature, so we’re especially excited when we can introduce a new animal species to the park. Now Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests have the opportunity to see springbok, a very interesting species of antelope, when they experience the Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Wild Africa Trek.
We’ve just begun the introduction of the springbok—six adult females and one five-month-old male calf—to our African savanna and thanks to vigilant attention from our animal care team, the springbok are adapting very well to their new habitat. The springbok join more than 300 other animals on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Other kinds of antelope that guests might spot include the addax, bontebok, bongo, eland, greater kudu, sable antelope, scimitar-horned oryx and white-bearded wildebeest. These are joined by many other animals that are favorites of our guests, including the African elephant, African lion, black and white rhinoceros, giraffe, nile crocodile, ostrich, hippopotamus and zebra.
Did you know?
The name “springbok” is Afrikaans and Dutch (“spring” means “jump,” and “bok” means “antelope” or “goat”).
Springbok, which are found in southern Africa, are approximately 2.4 – 2.9 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 70 – 100 lbs.
Male springbok are larger than females, and, although both males and females have horns, the males’ horns are thicker and longer.
Springbok can get the water they need from the food they eat, and they can survive without drinking water through the dry season, or even for years.
The springbok has a fold of skin that extends along the middle of its back to its tail and is lighter in color than the rest of its back. When the springbok is frightened by possible predators, the fold opens up and lifts so the lighter hair is displayed almost like a crest along the back.
The springbok displays a behavior called “pronking.” Pronking includes springing up repeatedly with legs stiff and close together, hooves bunched together, and back arched to show off the crest. While the exact cause of this behavior is unknown, springbok exhibit this activity when they are excited.
Springbok, as with all animals, rely heavily on their habitat for survival. Habitat destruction and over hunting threaten the species in the wild. You can help their populations from declining by supporting the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund www.disney.com/conservation and other conservation organizations that are working to protect African wildlife.
Sure looks like there’s a lot to do at Dino Institute, at least according to this helpful billboard. But what county is the institute located in? The name is blurred in the photo above – do you recall?
If you recall, young Russell from the film is a dedicated Wilderness Explorer who can’t wait to earn badges by having all kinds of adventures while learning about the world.
We’re happy to announce that the Wilderness Explorers adventure organization is coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with a planned opening this spring. Soon, guests can become Wilderness Explorers and experience the entire park using their field guides, completing challenges and earning badges as they go. With more than 30 badges available, Wilderness Explorers is fun for the whole family and helps guests experience Disney’s Animal Kingdom and its themes in a new and exciting way.
Wildlife photography has always been a passion of mine. I was recently walking through Harambe Village early one morning after photographing gorillas inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom, when I was struck by the vast array of handmade items from Africa: hand-carved wood masks and animals, intricate beaded creations, beautiful woven baskets and so much more. Africa is one of the most fascinating and diverse countries I know of, and I stopped to capture some of the intriguing details, all the while being quietly transported to yet another paradise.
I hope these snapshots capture some of the beauty and history of this amazing place. I also included a gorilla photo from that morning.
Throughout the year, we’re very proud to share on the Disney Parks Blog stories about our conservation efforts and how we’re connecting families with animals and nature. Some of these stories are now featured in a new film that Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests can see when they visit Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
The film, which is hosted by Disney’s Animal Programs Conservation Director Dr. Anne Savage, has four segments. The segment shown here focuses on conservation projects to protect coral reefs in The Bahamas (in partnership with Disney Cruise Line) and two endangered species: Puerto Rican crested toads and sea turtles.
The next time you visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch, be sure to stop by and view some of the other segments, which feature animals that live on the land and those that make their home in the sea, including gorillas, elephants, manatees, cotton-top tamarins and tigers. Here’s to a new year filled with nature’s magic!
About the size of a squirrel and with a beautiful silky reddish-gold coat, the golden lion tamarin is truly one of nature’s wonders. Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom can see this tiny endangered monkey at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I was fortunate enough this summer to see these animals in the only place in the world where they are found in the wild: the forests of Brazil.
Golden lion tamarins are quite a story. With the population hovering at only a few thousand, zoos around the world banded together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins born in their facilities to the wild. It was a success! These animals joined wild golden lion tamarins to form breeding groups that have brought this species back from the brink of extinction. Now, the country of Brazil even pictures a golden lion tamarin on the currency—that’s progress!
Today’s conservation efforts focus on working with people to protect Brazil’s tropical forests to make sure the tamarins continue to have a home. The DWCF has helped support long-term conservation efforts to protect these forests and to develop public education programs that reach millions of people in rural communities and in the largest cities of Brazil.
And, as you’ll see in this new video, the DWCF, along with Disney’s Friends for Change, has helped The Golden Lion Tamarin Association engage the next generation of conservationists — Brazil’s young people — to protect the tamarin.
This is truly a program that we can all be so very proud of, as people in Brazil have rallied to protect this amazing animal for the future.
Did you know?
Golden lion tamarins measure only about a foot from the top of their heads to the base of their tails and weigh little more than a pound.
These small monkeys live high atop the canopy of the rainforest, where they can leap from branch to branch with amazing agility as they forage for food.
They live in family groups of 2 to 8 individuals, and all individuals in the group assist in the rearing of the newborn tamarins.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series: