Our dedicated team of animal care experts is starting the new year off on the right foot … or, more specifically, the right – and left – hoof with the introduction of Beni the okapi calf to the Pembe Savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Guests watched with delight as Beni cautiously but curiously explored the new sights and smells of the savanna with his mom Olivia closely nudging him on from behind. Since his birth in July, Beni has grown to a height of four feet tall and weighs around 230 pounds. And while he still stays pretty close to mom, he is slowly becoming more independent and his endearing personality is starting to show as he matures.
We create magic at Disney and, to me, one of the most magical sights is witnessing an animal step onto the savanna for the first time. It inspires our guests to connect and care about animals they otherwise may never see, and it’s a major accomplishment for Beni’s care team who have worked for months to prepare him for this exciting moment.
Okapis are endangered in their home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and they are very good at camouflaging themselves into the rainforest, so getting to see them roam the savanna here at Walt Disney World Resort is incredibly special.
Beni is the first calf of mom Olivia and dad Elombe, and his birth was part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan which ensures the responsible breeding of threatened and endangered species in managed care. Programs like these make it possible for people to experience this majestic species first-hand at accredited institutions across the country, and we’re elated to be one of them. Disney also has a long history of supporting conservation organizations dedicated to protecting okapis and the forests they call home. Funds from the Disney Conservation Fund have helped monitor wild okapi populations, reduce deforestation, and support the well-being of local communities who share the forest with this iconic species.
Next time you’re at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, be sure to stop by Kidani Village and say hello to Beni and Olivia. Plus, you can experience the wonder of okapis from home by streaming the second season of “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” which released on Disney+ today. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how our animal care teams worked with Olivia during her pregnancy and helped her deliver a healthy calf.
To discover more inspirational stories about all the animals in our care, follow Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment on Facebook and Dr. Mark on Instagram.