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Cast Share the Secrets to Spicing Up Animal Playtime On ‘Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’

Scott Terrell

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

If I asked you to imagine a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, I’m sure you can quickly think of your favorite things to do here – whether it’s riding a particular attraction, savoring a tasty treat or just lounging by the pool. Now shift those thoughts to the 5,000+ animals in our care – they also have favorite activities – and we have a talented animal care team that work to make sure their days are infused with fun and excitement.

The latest episode of National Geographic’s “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” streaming on Disney+, gives viewers a closer look at the creativity our keepers use to make the magic happen for the animals in our care.

Just like us, animals appreciate a break from their everyday routines, so we look to add enrichment to experiences like playtime with special surprises and treats. It’s hard to tell who enjoys it most – the animals or the keepers. Our team loves creating unique experiences, such as introducing new food items, like popcorn, to the primates, sprinkling aromatic fragrances, like perfume and pumpkin pie spice throughout the big cat habitats, and working with the animal nutrition center to serve frozen treats on warm days.

Enrichment encourages the animals to explore and interact with their surroundings to demonstrate species-specific behaviors, such as big cats scratching to sharpen their claws or gorillas climbing to forage for food. Keeping these animals active and stimulated enhances their well-being, and it’s an essential part of the care we provide them.

Check out Sumatran tiger Sohni’s reaction to some lemongrass that animal keeper Susan and her team arranged to be added to the tigers’ home on Maharajah Jungle Trek.

The animal care team keeps things interesting by using their keen observation skills and species-specific know-how to make note of what foods and activities each animal seems to enjoy most. You can see in the video clip, Susan wants Sohni to enjoy new things in her habitat and has an inkling that Sohni will want to roll around in the fresh lemongrass, which she does, much to Susan’s delight.

Enrichment is happening all around for the animals you see at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT. This week’s activity page offers a unique way to keep your eyes peeled to catch the fun in action when watching the show or visiting the parks.

Remember, you can become part of the conservation conversation by following us on social media. We’re sharing even more behind-the-scenes content from our animal keepers on @drmarkatdisney on Instagram and @DisneyASE on Facebook.

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