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‘Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ Showcases Animal Care Team Springing into Action

Scott Terrell

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

I’m a big fan of super hero movies and absolutely love it when groups of heroes come together to tackle a worthy cause. These types of scenes actually play out in my day-to-day life. I’m incredibly proud to work with some real-life super heroes – experts on Disney’s animal care team who come together at a moment’s notice to care for the 5,000+ animals at Walt Disney World Resort. “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” shows viewers something I get to witness firsthand – an excellent team springing into action to do what’s best for the animals in their care. To say this team is passionate about their work is putting it lightly. They are fully devoted to providing outstanding care for our animals – and the way in which they do it hopefully inspires others to want to do the same. 

This week’s episode, “Peri’s Prickly Pregnancy,” shows how teamwork is essential for success when providing care for an animal’s health and well-being. While some of this work occurs in our park’s state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, the magic extends beyond those four walls – it requires around the clock care – on land, in the water and even in the air.

Dr. Deidre, our veterinary operations manager, has spent 20 years on our team, and we often talk about how teamwork with a holistic approach to animal health care is what makes working at Disney special. You’ll see that dynamic shine through in this week’s episode of our show, as the team provides care for pregnant prehensile-tailed porcupine Peri, and her porcupette. It takes a lot of relationship building and trust to get an animal to participate in their own medical care – our team is on point with this, and the work isn’t as prickly as you might imagine.

Care for Peri starts with animal keepers, like Ashley, who observe and monitor her daily, provide a balanced diet from our nutrition team and train with Peri so she’ll participate in her own care. Ashley has a special bond with Peri that goes all the way back to Ashley’s first day with our team. Peri was the first animal Ashley got to work with at Disney, and the two of them just clicked.

Veterinary hospital manager Shelley also has a unique relationship with Peri. She trained Peri to voluntarily participate in ultrasounds and did such an incredible job that the Conservation Station animal care team felt it was fitting to name Peri’s baby after Shelley! Thanks to the prep work done by the team, veterinarians, like Dr. Natalie and Dr. Diedre can easily examine Peri and her baby and use their decades of veterinary training and medical expertise to see mom and baby are developing well on track and thriving.

Curious to learn more? Keep your eyes on Dr. Mark’s Instagram account (@DrMarkAtDisney) for a special #AskDrMark series on animal health care in the coming days. And the learning doesn’t stop here. This week’s activity page includes a lot of fun facts about several of the animals in our care, from steenbok to manatees, and it’s a great guide to keep handy whenever you tune into Disney+ to watch more of “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” now streaming.

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