Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Conservation Fund Awards $3 Million in Grants

Dr. Mark Penning

by , Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

One of my favorite things I get to do each year is help review conservation grant proposals for the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF). Every summer, I have a chance to work with my fellow cast members to provide needed funds to organizations from all over the world that help animals in the wild, inspire communities to preserve ecosystems and ensure our planet continues to thrive and provide for the amazing diversity of wildlife and communities who share it.


The grant review process is a lot of hard work, but it is very rewarding. This year 80 cast members served on one of six committees focused on reviewing conservation work taking place in different geographic areas. Reviewers include cast members from various parts of The Walt Disney Company with expertise in conservation research, education, animal care, communications, business and philanthropy. Each brings their own experiences, points of view and expertise that help us ensure funds are directed to projects that will have the greatest positive impact on endangered species and habitats. In less than four months, our team of reviewers collectively dedicated more than 2,100 hours of their own time to reviewing more than 300 proposals!

Serving on a review committee is a great opportunity for cast members to make a difference for the animals we are passionate about and inspire our guests to learn more about every day. Reviewers often share their awe at the astounding conservation work they read about, the exciting new approaches to solving conservation challenges and amazing stories of people truly dedicated to making the world a better place for communities and animals. Being a part of this process also helps cast members better understand the role The Walt Disney Company plays in conserving nature and connecting kids and families with nature all over the world.

It is especially rewarding when the group chooses to support a project I have been personally involved with – I was lucky enough to provide field or veterinary support to several of the projects in the past, and have visited many of the field sites where this amazing work is being done. We love seeing the Disney Conservation Fund supporting solid projects that our cast members have checked out in person.

This year, we are proud to share that nearly $3 million in grants from the DCF will benefit wildlife, habitats, and communities through 104 conservation projects! After 20 years of helping nonprofit organizations worldwide, we have officially surpassed $30 million in grants through the fund.

The DCF is supported by guests like you who make contributions at Disney’s Animal, The Seas with Nemo & Friends and The Land at Epcot, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club Resorts and select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Your support truly makes a difference, and we value the opportunity to work together to protect wildlife each year. I personally would like to share my congratulations to all of this year’s grant recipients, our many cast members for their hard work and to you, our guests, for helping us to conserve nature for future generations.

For a complete list of the 2015 Disney Conservation Fund grant recipients, you can visit www.disney.com/conservation. Learn even more about the incredible achievements we have reached together at The Disney Post.


  • I Love It! Congrats!

  • I have made a point of going to the opening of Disney Nature Films on Earth Day in order to support the work of the DCF. Reading this post and seeing all of the organizations that are getting this funding reminds me how important this work is. I’m proud that I’m able to contribute in my own little way and look forward to making a donation when I go to DisneyWorld in a couple of weeks. Keep up the good work!!

    • Thank you for your comments, and for being such an ardent supporter. I hope you’ll visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom during your trip to Walt Disney World – there are many opportunities here to experience the magic of nature, and to learn more about the great DCF projects. Our gorilla family has two babies right now, and they are amazing to watch. Did you know we also have a gorilla orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Thanks again for your support, and enjoy your visit.

  • This post is so inspiring Dr. Penning. For the past 5 years I have had the opportunity to work as a freelance graphic designer for the amazing people behind the Disney Conservation Fund effort. I look forward to every project given to me to design. I feel like I’m helping in some small way even though I’m not a cast member. It is so great to hear the details and insights of the grant program process and how rewarding it is to know cast members are so involved in the selection process. Thank you for the posts that keep others like me in the conservation circle informed. You are all modern-day heroes in my eyes.
    Sincerely, Will

    • Thanks so much for the comments, and for your design contribution to the Disney Conservation Fund. Remember that all contributions, big and small, add up to make the DCF the powerful force that it is. I am very pleased to see that you’re a part of it, too. Thank you, and please keep it going! You play an important role in the success of the fund.

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