Disney's Animal Programs Archives

April 8, 2012

Party for the Planet – Including Chimpanzees – in Celebration of Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom is hosting a Party for the Planet in celebration of Earth Day. Guests can find out what they can do to make their backyards wildlife-friendly and discover other ways to conserve wildlife and protect nature, including chimpanzees, in celebration of the release of "Chimpanzee," Disneynature's newest True Life Adventure.


Full-park festivities will take place on the first and last days of the celebration, April 13 and 22 (Earth Day). As guests enter the park, they can get the party started at two table displays in the main entrance area: one featuring wildlife-friendly backyard habitats and the other "Chimpanzee."

Activities in the park include:

Asia (Maharajah Jungle Trek)-Families can play a supermarket game and learn how their purchases can make a big difference for wildlife and wild places.

Africa (Pangani Forest Exploration Trail)-Children can observe and identify chimpanzee tracks and clues left behind along trails as they move through the forest.

Rafiki's Planet Watch, courtyard-Outside Conservation Station, guests will discover fun ways to spend time in nature with their families and find "Chimpanzee"-related merchandise, as well as face painters and caricature artists.

Rafiki's Planet Watch, inside Conservation Station-Families can visit the Chimpanzee Research Station and participate in a variety of activities based on real conservation work. Guests also can talk with cast members who work on conservation projects around the world and learn about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.


Although the full-park festivities take place April 13 and 22, there will be lots for guests visiting April 13 through April 22 to see and do:

Outside the theme park's main entrance, a sand sculpture and display will celebrate the "Chimpanzee' film.

Families can visit the Chimpanzee Research Station inside Conservation Station.

Guests can visit with special artisans in Discovery Island.

Fun Facts:

Although we don't have chimpanzees at Disney's Animal Kingdom, we do have many other fascinating primates, including gorillas, siamangs, white-cheeked gibbons, colobus monkeys, cotton-top tamarins and lemurs.

Disneynature joined forces with the Jane Goodall Institute for a special "See 'Chimpanzee,' Save Chimpanzees" program. For every moviegoer who sees "Chimpanzee" during the film's opening week (April 20-26, 2012), Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund in order to protect chimpanzees and their habitats.

Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife documentary filmmaking, producing 13 True Life Adventure motion pictures between 1948 and 1960, including "Seal Island" (1948), "Beaver Valley" (1950), "The Living Desert" (1953) and "Jungle Cat" (1958). The films earned eight Academy Awards®.

Upcoming 2012 wildlife conservation events at Disney's Animal Kingdom (as always, dates subject to change):

May 12: International Migratory Bird Day
May 23: World Turtle Day
June 6: Pollinator Day
August: Cotton-Top Tamarin Month
Sept. 5: International Vulture Awareness Day
Sept. 26: Elephant Awareness Day
Oct. 31: Bat Day

March 22, 2012

Babies of the Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Resort

Animal Operations Director of Disney's Animal Programs Matt Hohne shares the excitement of the baby warthogs that were born in February. There are five baby warthogs, three males and two females.


The piglets, which are still backstage, weighed 1 ½ to just over 2 pounds at birth. Adult females weigh 110-165 pounds and adult males are larger, ranging from 130-330 pounds. We expect the piglets to be out on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna with their mom by late April.

With the new additions, we now have four male and three female warthogs at Disney's Animal Kingdom. In the wild, warthogs are designated as vulnerable due to habitat destruction and being hunted for meat.

Warthog Fun Facts:

Although the upper tusks are more impressive, it is the sharper lower tusks that are the warthog's principal weapons.

Warts, which are prominent only on males, are skin growths and have no bony support. The warts are located on the side of the head and in front of the eyes. They serve to cushion blows sustained during battles over females.

Warthogs usually take over the abandoned burrows of other animals instead of making their own dens.

In the wild, warthogs' habitat is widespread-they live in all African countries south of the Sahara Desert.

Blue Line

Over at Kidani Village, Animal Kingdom Lodge, the baby okapi can now be seen on the Pembe savannah. For optimal viewing take the path back by the Kidani Village pool to the viewing area for Pembe. If they are out and about, this is where you will see mom and the now 187+ pound youngster.


This female okapi was born in November, 2011. It's unusual to see an okapi in a mixed-species savanna habitat, and guests are enjoying this special opportunity to observe, and snap photos of mom, Zoe, and her 5-month-old calf, whom the team named "Makemba" (an African name that means "goddess"). The Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge animal care team and savanna guides are having a great time sharing okapi fun facts with the resort guests: Did you know that the okapi, despite its stripes, is a relative of the giraffe and not the zebra?

February 15, 2010

New Addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Family: Baby White-Cheeked Gibbon

White Cheek Gibbon

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 15, 2010 -- Guests visiting the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom are getting a glimpse of the latest addition to the park's family - an endangered white-cheeked gibbon born Feb. 2.

The yet-to-be named male and his mother, Melaka, are bonding well according to the animal experts who oversee the daily care of primates. Guests may see them and the baby's two sisters, Suki and Tuyen, in their habitat near Kali River Rapids.

This most recent birth is the fourth gibbon born at Disney's Animal Kingdom as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan which manages genetic diversity among species through detailed records of individual animals. Disney's Animal Kingdom also participates in AZA Species Survival Plans for several other animals, including elephants, cotton-top tamarins and okapi.

White-cheeked gibbons typically produce a single offspring every two to three years after seven to eight months gestation. Following birth, infants are able to cling to their mothers, allowing the females complete range of motion as they move about the forest with their offspring.

The species is also distinguished by the changing characteristics of their fur which differs by gender and age. While nursing, babies typically maintain a light-brown or golden-colored fur that easily blends with their mother's coat. Once weaned around the age of one, babies' fur transitions to black. While the males maintain black fur for their entire lives, female gibbons will change back to golden fur between the ages of six and eight.

As social animals, gibbons are strongly territorial and defend their boundaries with vigorous visual and vocal displays. During early morning singing, female and male gibbons emit loud vocalizations that result in complex duets between mated pairs. Solo performances may also signal invitations to mate or advertise territory.

White-cheeked gibbon Fun Facts:

The average life span of the white-cheeked gibbon ranges from 25 - 30 years, but some have been known to live up to 40 years

Both males and females measure between one-and-a-half to two-feet tall

An adult gibbon may weigh up to 18 pounds

They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals

White-cheeked gibbons are found in Laos, Vietnam and southern China in evergreen tropical rainforests and monsoon forests

Gibbons spend their whole lives in the tops of rainforest trees. You can help their rainforest homes by purchasing shade-grown coffee, which grows in the shade of the rainforest trees

January 25, 2010

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes Endangered White Rhino to Growing Herd

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 25, 2010 -- Disney's Animal Kingdom welcomed a healthy white rhino to the family last week with the addition of a female calf born Sunday, Jan. 17. Kendi, an 11-year-old white rhino, gave birth to her third baby after a 16-month gestation period. The baby, which has not yet been named, is the eighth white rhino born at Disney's Animal Kingdom; her mother, Kendi, was the first.


"A rhino birth is considered to be a significant event since the species was once nearly extinct and is currently endangered," according to Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president of Disney's Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives. "Under protection and careful management, this species has grown to approximately 11,000 worldwide, with 190 residing in North American zoos."

During her first weigh-in on Jan. 22, the newborn weighed 178 pounds. The calf and mother are currently off the savannah bonding at Disney's Animal Kingdom, but will return to the herd in the coming months.

Disney's Animal Kingdom participates in a white rhino breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The program focuses on sustaining the white rhino population in North America. Many older rhinos in the population have not bred and it is important for the long term survival of the North American population for this species to continue to reproduce.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, the success of the rhino breeding program has enabled team members to make a direct contribution to the conservation of white rhinos in the wild. In 2006, Nande and Hasani, two rhinos born at Disney's Animal Kingdom, traveled to Africa to join four others at Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda, reestablishing a white rhino population there that had been extinct since the 1980s. Last year, Nande gave birth to the first white rhino born in Uganda in 27 years.

Walt Disney World's commitment to conservation and rhinos goes beyond rhino breeding. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported more than $250,000 in rhino protection and research projects in partnership with non-profit organizations throughout the world. For more information on the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund visit

White rhino fun facts:

White rhinos have no incisors or canine teeth and use their square lips to graze or browse large areas of grassland.

White rhinos are named not for their color, which is gray, but for the shape of their mouths. The word "weit" in Afrikaans means wide.

August 6, 2009

International Veterinary Team Helps Swaziland Save Habitat and Care


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Aug. 5, 2009 - Led by Disney's Animal Programs, an international coalition of veterinarians from conservation groups, zoos, universities and private industry have returned from Africa after effectively sterilizing seven bull elephants in Swaziland's Big Game Parks.

As a result of this effort, Swaziland wildlife officials will be able to better manage the elephant population in wildlife parks and reserves over the next decade.

Elephant overpopulation in wildlife parks and reserves in Swaziland and other southern Africa countries is a growing concern that can have devastating effects on the natural habitat as well as other animal species that live there. Wildlife officials in several countries are considering culling elephants in order to control the population growth. One of the ways to address this concern is with an innovative population management tool developed by an international veterinary team to help save habitat without harming elephants.

"Surgical vasectomy helps reduce elephant birth rates, while maintaining normal hormone levels and common elephant social behaviors," according to veterinarian Dr. Mark Stetter, director of Animal Health at Disney's Animal Programs. "With this procedure, we're pleased to help wildlife officials in Africa balance the need to provide quality elephant care with an eye toward sustaining the ecosystem for other native animals."

In July 2004, this team of experts performed the first ever sterilization of free-ranging elephants. In 2005, the group began its work with bull elephants and started developing laparoscopic vasectomy techniques for sterilizing males in the wild. During the last four years, the team has sterilized 24 bull elephants at a variety of locations including Welgevonden Wildlife Reserve, Songimvelo Wildlife Reserve, Pongola Game Reserve and Swaziland's Big Game Parks.

During this most recent trip, the international team helped teach the procedure to veterinarians from the South African National Parks Board and the University of Pretoria Onderstepoort Veterinary Hospital, enabling local experts to perform the surgery when necessary. Developing regional expertise is critical to the long-term success of the program.

"As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Disney's Animal Programs is committed to pioneering creative solutions to problems facing all wildlife by using the technology and tools available to address conservation and wildlife issues," said Stetter.

Elephants are unique among most mammals since their testes are internal and require abdominal surgery to perform a vasectomy, making the relatively simple procedure much more complex to conduct on elephants in the wild.

This innovative procedure involves state-of-the-art medical equipment specifically developed for this project and scaled from human to elephant proportions. The elephant laparoscopic equipment was built by KARL STORZ at their headquarters in Germany.

Laparoscopic surgery allows the surgeon to view the internal organs on a monitor and use long thin instruments to perform the surgery. With this type of minimally invasive surgery, the risk of infection is greatly diminished, procedure time is significantly reduced and post-operative discomfort is minimized.

This coalition, along with Swazi elephant behavioral researchers, will monitor the elephant populations over the next several years as part of a long term behavioral study investigating potential changes in elephant behavior associated with this population management plan.

This international collaborative effort brings together conservation groups, universities and private industry including Disney's Animal Programs, Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, KARL STORZ, Catchco Africa Specialized Wildlife Capture, the Veterinary College at the Onderstepoort campus of the University of Pretoria and Swaziland's Big Game Parks to address this complex problem.

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About Disney's Animal Programs

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Disney and Florida Attractions News Blog in the Disney's Animal Programs category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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