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Wildlife Wednesday: Reports from the Field: GRACE

Rachel Daneault

by , 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: Reports from the Field: GRACE