More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Wildlife Wednesdays: How Do You Get a Giraffe Into the Veterinary Hospital at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

Scott Terrell

by , DVM, DACVP, Director of Animal & Science Operations, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Getting a Giraffe to the Vet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Many of you are aware that a visit to Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom provides an opportunity to get a “behind the scenes” look at our animal care program. One of the highlights of that area is the on-show veterinary hospital window. The veterinary hospital window allows a direct view into our on-show treatment room, radiology (X-ray) room and clinical laboratory. On any given day (usually between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon), veterinarians may be performing routine wellness exams, surgery, or other medical procedures on a variety of animals for all of our guests to see. Every afternoon, members of the hospital team are available outside the window for personal interactions with guests.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Veterinary Hospital Windows Allow a Direct View into On-show Treatment Rooms

One of the most common guest questions we get at the hospital window is, “How do you get a giraffe into the hospital?” The guest might be joking as they watch us work in a treatment room that could never hold a giraffe, but there is a real question there… how do you bring a giraffe to the hospital? The answer is simple: we don’t, we bring the hospital to the giraffe. No matter the size of the animal, we must be able to provide excellence in animal health care to our animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.

The Mobile Veterinary Truck at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Advanced portable medical equipment and good old-fashioned hard work allows us to pack up a huge variety of equipment and travel to our backstage animal barns for wellness exams and diagnostic medical procedures. Our mobile veterinary truck and hospital van may carry an anesthesia machine, oxygen tanks, a portable X-ray unit, an ultrasound machine, a surgical laser, dart gun equipment, anesthetic and emergency drugs, monitoring equipment, bandage material, dental tools, surgical supplies, and much, much more. We literally bring the hospital to the patient. Those patients may include giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos, manatees, dolphins, and any other large animal not quite suited for the hospital.

So, the next time you visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to stop by the on-show veterinary hospital window. As you watch us work on our patients in the hospital or talk with our hospital team, remember that behind the scenes we might be packing up the hospital for another “house call” to a giraffe.


  • My favorite tour is the Animal Kingdom Backstage tour. It was wonderful. Lots of informaiton and great views of the animals and the vetinerary hospital from the ‘inside’. Keep up the great work!

  • The on-show veterinary hospital window is one of my favorite places to spend a morning at DAK. I could watch the variety of animals being treated all day. The Vets are all extremely talented and everyone who comes into contact wit the animals show a caring and concern that it evident.

    My only wish would be that there was a way to followup on the animals we see in treatment. I remember years ago there being some hoof stock issues and I’d love to have known how they were getting on with that. Also there was a turtle who was undergoing treatments on Tuesday afternoons for injuries from being run over – it had already been almost a year in treatment – how is it doing.

    A website dedicated to these animals would be a fun followup especially for the budding Vets sitting at the window. And don’t worry, we can all deal witht he fact that not every story has a perfect ending.

  • Me and my family try to visit Disney and other surrounding parks at least once a year and we’ve always had questions about how the company takes care of the animals and what a burden it must be. I am relieved to know that all of them get cared for and get the medical attention they need. The giraffe story is funny, because my brother had the same questions about the whales in Sea World. Its good to know that that kind of care is available for your animals. Do you know if its the same case with aquatic animals or any fun facts about it?
    Fernanda L.

    • The exact same protocols and procedures exist for our marine patients as well! We have the capability to provide hospital care to fish, rays, turtles, and sharks. For our largest marine patients, the manatees and dolphins, we will bring our medical equipment “poolside” to provide that same level of health care.

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