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November 22, 2017

Gingerbread and Holiday Treets Around the "World"

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Deck the halls, hang your stockings and decorate the tree, because the holiday season has officially arrived. The sights and sounds of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year reign freely at Disney Parks, where tried and true gingerbread treats and other magical displays are coming to life. The pastry teams at Walt Disney World Resort continues its annual tradition of baking some of the most stunning gingerbread and chocolate displays in the country, creating true destination-worthy displays of food as art. For those Disney enthusiasts that only come during the holiday season, to Annual Passholders and frequent visitors to the Happiest Place on Earth, these gorgeous culinary masterpieces are must-see experiences for Guests of all ages.

Life-sized Gingerbread House (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - WDW)

Life-size holiday gingerbread house (with over 10,000 pieces of gingerbread) in the hotel lobby. The Bake Shop uses a classic gingerbread recipe from Austria to make their gingerbread houses, ornaments, and cookies. Gingerbread house decorating demos are conducted in front of the gingerbread house daily. This year, the gingerbread house pin will feature penguins from Mary Poppins and celebrates its 19th year as a tradition at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. See the time-lapse video below to see Disney's bakers hard at work bringing this holiday favorite to life.

Life-size Holiday Carousel (Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts - WDW)

This life-size, edible spinning carousel is holiday tradition at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resort celebrating its 18th year. Lilo & Stitch-themed carousel horses with coordinating, hand-painted holiday characters join handcrafted gingerbread snowman and snowflakes and spin round and round. This year, 18 hidden Mickeys will be added to commemorate each year of this beloved tradition and the holiday pin will feature Lilo & Stitch.

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Cinderella Castle (Disney’s Contemporary Resort – 3rd Floor- WDW – NEW THIS YEAR)

Cinderella Castle recreated in a Mary Blair-style set on an “it’s a small world” backdrop, with oversized gingerbread cookies depicting Cinderella and Prince Charming greeting guests from the Castle forecourt. The 18’ tall display is crafted from thousands of gingerbread blocks, rolled fondant, and modeling chocolate.

Gingerbread African-Inspired Marketplace (Tusker House Restaurant, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park - WDW)

A 3-foot long Gingerbread African-inspired Market Place located at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. This sweet display includes 25 lbs. of dark chocolate, 23 lbs. of bread flour, 10 lbs of confectioner's sugar and plenty of holiday spirit!


United States Capitol Building (Epcot, The American Adventure Pavilion - WDW)

This historic U.S. sites comes to life in a sweet way with over 50 lbs. of gingerbread, 20 lbs. of icing, handcrafted chocolate holiday trees, a pond made entirely of sugar and 6 hidden Mickeys. This year, the Lincoln Memorial will make its delectable debut to the display.


Gingerbread Disney Springs Icons (Amorette’s Patisserie, Disney Springs - WDW – NEW THIS YEAR)

Represents the story behind the iconic Town Center at Disney Springs and includes 45 lbs. of bread flour, 15 lbs. of dark chocolate, 10 lbs. confectioners’ sugar, 15 lbs. eggs, 15 lbs. honey and one hidden heart.


And elsewhere in the Disney universe.......

Haunted Mansion Holiday Gingerbread House (Haunted Mansion, DLR)

This fanciful gingerbread creation features Oogie Boogie, who gets his chance to shine after a 13-year absence in the ballroom, thrilling fans of "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas." The house is six feet tall to the roof point, but the animated Oogie Boogie himself is seven feet tall. The house is made of over 200 lbs of gingerbread, 200 pounds powdered sugar, 4 gallons egg whites, 1 gallon lemon juice, 30 lbs white chocolate, 50 lbs gum paste, 50 lbs of fondant, 1/3 lb of glitter and over 200 hours of Disney Culinary Magic! There are more than 70 bugs “scurrying” across the ballroom table and the ballroom itself. We have been told there might be a few gingerbread bugs that have escaped out of the ballroom … think you can find them?

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Life-size Gingerbread House (Disney Dream - DCL)

Holidays are magical aboard the Disney Dream where a giant gingerbread house fills the air with delicious smells and holiday cheer. During Very Merrytime Cruises, each Disney Cruise Line ship boasts its own oversized gingerbread house, handcrafted by the crew and decked in Disney-themed décor.

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Disney Press Release

November 1, 2017

Updates on Sumatran Tiger Cubs and Conservation Efforts

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Back in August, Disney shared the news about the birth of two endangered Sumatran tiger cubs – the first tigers to be born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Today, there's an update about efforts to save their species in the wild, along with a progress report on the cubs.

Disney is supporting the efforts of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and their partners to reverse the decline of Sumatran tigers by conducting a tiger population survey in Indonesia and taking steps to increase the wild population of Sumatran tigers by 25 percent in the next decade. In the video below, Anne Savage, PhD, conservation director, explains the significance of this project, funded in part by guests unlocking a $100,000 contribution to the Wildlife Conservation Society through Connect to Protect, a digital mobile adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney Parks, through the Disney Conservation Fund, has committed $1 million to protect and restore habitats of at-risk wildlife through the Connect to Protect program.

Speaking of Sumatran tigers… the cubs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are two months old and now have names: Jeda, the male cub, (above left) and Anala, the female cub.

The cubs continue to bond with their mother, Sohni, and are really showing their personalities, which inspired their names.

Jeda is very laid-back, just like his father Malosi. His name means “pause” in Malay. It is inspired by his markings. You might notice that Jeda has two parallel lines inside a stripe on his head that resemble a pause button.

Anala has an independent spirit and is very quick to explore new things. Her name means “fiery, sizzling” in Hindi.

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“The cubs wrestle with each other constantly and love jumping on plants and logs,” said Erin Heavey, an animal care specialist who cares for the tigers. “Jeda in particular loves ripping the bark off the logs and playing with all the pieces that come off. Anala is becoming more adept at sneaking and pouncing and loves hiding behind things (even when she isn’t entirely hidden) and trying to surprise attack Sohni or her brother. This is actually something she gets from Sohni, who loves to “hide and sneak” even though she isn’t always very covert about it.”

Disney will share more about when Jeda and Anala will go on stage in their habitat on Maharajah Jungle Trek. In the meantime, Guests can continue to visit their parents and learn about how they can join Disney in reversing the decline of these beautiful tigers in the wild at DisneyAnimals.com.

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August 23, 2017

Sumatran Tiger Cubs Born Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Birth of Critically Endangered Sumatran Tiger Cubs

Sohni, a Sumatran tiger at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, recently gave birth to a pair of tiger cubs, the first in the park’s history.

Sohni and her cubs are bonding well. Guests can expect to see Sohni and her cubs on the Maharajah Jungle Trek within the next several months. In the meantime, watch the video below for a sneak peek at these adorable baby animals bonding with their mom.

Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers exist in the wild, as the species is facing significant threats like habitat loss, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) is working with groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society on its Reverse the Decline initiative to develop strategies for saving these amazing animals. To date, DCF has provided nearly $4 million to support the conservation of wild cat species like tigers, lions and snow leopards in 25 countries around the world.

These tiger cubs were bred by Disney's trained team of animal care experts through the Species Survival Plan, which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and ensures responsible breeding and diverse populations of threatened and endangered species.

March 24, 2017

Fast Pass+ Reservations for Pandora Now Online

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IMPORTANT: You will not be able to book a FastPass+ for both Pandora attractions on the same day.

Great news for those of you anxiously counting the days until the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 27 – FastPass+ reservations are now open to experience the land’s never-before-seen attractions for guests staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels.

As you may know, Pandora – The World of Avatar will transport guests to a visually stunning world with floating mountains, bioluminescent plants and more. It’ll also feature two one-of-a-kind attractions: Avatar Flight of Passage, which will allow guests to fly on a banshee over the world of Pandora and the family friendly Na’vi River Journey, which will send guests down a mystical river hidden within a bioluminescent rainforest.

Guests at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels can reserve FastPass+ selections for the two attractions up to 60 days prior to check in, beginning today. For all other guests who have pre-purchased valid park admission, reservations will be available starting 30 days prior to their visit, beginning May 27, 2017. You may select one of these two attractions in your first set of Disney FastPass+ selections, depending on availability.

And beginning May 27 (through July 4), guests staying in select Walt Disney World Resort hotels will have the opportunity to experience Pandora — The World of Avatar with special nighttime Extra Magic Hours. Guests of select Walt Disney World Resort hotels with a valid theme park admission can fly on the back of a banshee, navigate a mystical river and walk under floating mountains beyond regular park hours – from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. This benefit is in addition to the Extra Magic Hours already available to you at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

DIsney Parks Blog

February 9, 2017

February 17 Set for Premiere of Animal Kingdom's New Nighttime Show - Rivers of Light

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2017) – Rivers of Light, an all-new nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will begin delighting Walt Disney World Resort guests Feb. 17. Rich in symbolism and storytelling, the elaborate theatrical production takes guests on a breathtaking emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light all choreographed to an original musical score.

The new 15-minute show is the latest addition to the lineup of nighttime experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Celebrating the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world, the performance combines live performers, beautiful floating lanterns, glistening fountains, special effects and authentic animal imagery projected on giant water screens.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is built around the lives of animals, built around the rules of nature, and those rules dictate that as you move between day and night everything changes…and you’re going to want to see that,” said Joe Rohde, Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. “It all really is summed up by Rivers of Light. In the show, we take this combination of light and water which create life, and out of that comes this fantastically rich explosion of animal life that ultimately rises up and joins the stars.”

As the sun sets, guests gather along the picturesque edge of the Discovery River at the site of a fabled age-old ritual. A new 5,000-seat amphitheater welcomes guests to two distinct “villages” separated by a bridge and the river. Sounds of animals are heard from a nearby forest, and magical fireflies descend from the Tree of Life toward the lagoon, creating a sense of wonder as four beautifully illuminated Lotus flowers float across the water.

The ceremony begins with a stirring musical overture signaling the arrival of a pair of mystical Storytellers, two complementary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. They set out from the shore aboard elaborate lantern vessels. Adorned in intricately designed costumes, the hosts engage in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits – an Asian Tiger, Tropical Turtle, African Elephant and Great Horned Owl – and take guests on a wondrous journey across Asian jungles and African savannahs.

Disney challenged renowned Broadway production designer Michael Curry to create vessels that were artistic and stimulating, yet innovative. The commanding lanterns stand 15 feet tall and are 30 feet long, illuminated from within by innovative LED technology.

As the mesmerizing show progresses, Rivers of Light continues to unfold with a powerful musical score created by songwriter and composer Don L. Harper and recorded at the renowned Abbey Road Studio in London. The signature song “We Are One” was written by Mark Mancina, who created the score and was a key collaborator on the music for Disney’s hit animated feature film “Moana.”

A collaboration with Disneynature to incorporate rare nature cinematography showcasing tender animal moments adds rich authenticity to the storyline. Many are never-before-seen moments from Disneynature films.

The crescendo of the evening finale blends triumphant music and a waterfall of colors celebrating the circle of life.

“At the show’s finale, we hope guests will feel like they have been on a tremendous ceremonial and visual journey,” said Michael Jung, Walt Disney Imagineering creative director. “Rivers of Light really provides an affirmation of life and reminds us of the beauty and fragility of the natural world we all share – with animals and one another.”

Technology and attention to detail play starring roles in the new show. The 11 show floats are independent of each other and programmed to follow a choreographed “dance” across the lagoon. More than 50,000 programmable, color-changing LED lights are found in the four Animal Spirit Guide floats alone. Each Lotus float produces its own water screen. Costumes for the storytellers and their acolytes include fabrics using 5,000-year-old dye and weaving techniques.

Following its Feb. 17 premiere, Rivers of Light will be performed on select nights.

Special dining packages are available to park guests that include reserved seating at the new show. Packages are offered at the buffet-style Tusker House or the new signature restaurant Tiffins (lunch and dinner). Reservations can be made by visiting DisneyWorld.com/dining or by calling 407 WDW-DINE.

Rivers of Light joins a rich variety of new nighttime experiences and family adventures designed to offer up Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a whole new light. These include:

Post-sunset adventures on Kilimanjaro Safaris, allowing guests to travel through the African savannah amid the artfully created orange glow of the setting sun during evening hours of operation.
After-dark hours allowing guests to experience nighttime on popular park attractions including Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and more.
Fine dining at Tiffins, newest signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort, with innovative dishes that take diners to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas amid travel-inspired artwork.
Exuberant song-and-dance gathering nightly in the center of the park, Discovery Island Carnivale. Includes lively music and dance, vibrant costumes, delectable food and beverage, face painting and more.
Tree of Life awakening after dark. Through projections and special effects, the animal spirits of the Tree are brought to life like never before, revealing moments of wonder and enchantment.
Harambe Wildlife Parti. This safari after-party crisscrosses Harambe, from its theatre district to its bustling marketplace with the sights and sounds of local street musicians and entertainers, inviting guests to join them in dance and song, partake in exotic foods and libations and explore the diverse wares of village artisans and merchants.

All are part of the largest expansion in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom which will culminate this summer with the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar.

January 25, 2017

International Zebra Day - January 31st

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Three types of Zebras make their home at Walt Disney World.

On the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail in Animal Kingdom you will find Grevy's zebra (photo above). You can identify this endangered species by its wide, round ears and the patch of white on its snout before the stripes begin.

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Also at Animal Kingdom you will find Grant's zebras on the Kilimanjaro Safari. Their ears are more pointed and thin, and the stripes continue around their bellies.

Finally, on the savannas at Animal Kingdom Lodge you can spot Hartmann's zebra. Their bellies are white like Grevy’s zebra, but you can identify them by their thin, pointed ears.

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Source: Disney Parks Blog

June 5, 2016

Savor the Savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Experience Animal Kingdom's savanna in a whole new way!

The Savor the Savanna Evening Safari Experience offers you the opportunity to hop aboard a private safari vehicle and enjoy an expedition through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. The highlight? A stop at an exclusive viewing area where you get to sample a selection of regional beers and wines (well, for those 21 and over, anyway) and savor African-inspired tapas while taking in the impressive savanna. It’s a bounty of flavors bursting with delectable textures!

As you roll through the reserve on this incredible outing, you can watch it come alive with magic as a spectacular world of creatures roam about and grip your imagination. A guide paints a picture of the wildlife, pointing out fascinating facts along the way. A special keepsake commemorating your unforgettable evening trek is yours to take home as well.

Book your delicious, unique Africa escape (no passport needed) today. Your palate will thank you. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687). The cost is $169 per guest. Valid Theme Park admission is required, and each participant must be at least 8 years old. Each experience is limited to a maximum of 12 Guests. Inclement weather conditions and other factors may affect schedules, and offerings are subject to change without notice.

April 20, 2016

Disney's Animal Kingdom Introduces the Magic of Nature After Dark With First-Ever Extended Park Hours Starting Memorial Day Weekend

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Night
New Limited-Engagement Show Celebrates The Jungle Book

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – Nightfall brings more mystery and majesty to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park as guests discover rich new experiences under the stars. Whether riding Kilimanjaro Safaris at sunset, rollicking aboard rafts on Kali River Rapids at twilight, dancing alongside African performers in Harambe, or reveling in a live musical celebration of Disney’s new hit film The Jungle Book, guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can enjoy the park’s captivating new vibe and tone when it expands its offerings with extended hours and enhanced entertainment, scheduled to begin Memorial Day Weekend.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is such a majestic and beautiful park,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort, “With new experiences and new ways to experience favorite attractions, nighttime at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be a can’t-miss experience for Walt Disney World guests.”

Like the animal world itself, Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues to evolve since opening on Earth Day in 1998. As the park shifts to nighttime, a magical ambiance emerges, inviting guests to share in its wonder with heightened senses. At nightfall the sounds of rustling foliage, animal calls, and colorful prayer flags flapping in the wind become even more distinct. Softly lit, once-familiar paths now cast in shadows make every twist and turn a new discovery. Most of the park’s popular attractions will remain open for guests to enjoy after dark.

The animal encounters shift at twilight, too, as darkness camouflages the boundaries between wildlife and guests. The kingdom comes alive with intriguing nighttime animal behaviors -- never disappointing humanity’s enduring fascination with creatures of our planet.

Highlights of new experiences:

The Tree of Life Awakens

The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will undergo extraordinary “awakenings” throughout the evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that reveal colorful stories of wonder and enchantment. High-tech projections of nature scenes take on a magical quality as they appear to dramatically emanate from within the Tree of Life.

Kilimanjaro Safaris after Dark

Each evening, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris daytime experience is artfully bathed in the glow of sunset with special lighting allowing guests to explore this attraction well into the night. During the expedition, guests can now encounter the nighttime behavior of the wildlife and better tune in to the unique vocalization of the animals. Plus, there are two new species to discover: African wild dogs and hyenas.

The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic

For the summer, Discovery River becomes the stage for music and pageantry in a limited-engagement show inspired by Disney’s hit live-action film The Jungle Book. Jungle Book: Alive with Magic is a live show filled with music and special effects that celebrates the new film and the classic songs, now infused with an Indian influence.

Harambe Wildlife Parti

When the sun sets, the popular Village of Harambe will become a hot spot with the new Harambe Wildlife Parti. Here, “party animals” can dance alongside a variety of entertainers and local street musicians, and enjoy the lively rhythms of African music. Guests can also partake in exotic foods and libations, and explore the diverse wares of village artisans and merchants in the vibrant marketplace.

Discovery Island Carnivale

The spirited community of Discovery Island has come together to celebrate their love of the natural world with the Discovery Island Carnivale. This nightly experience will captivate guests with lively music, jubilant dance, vibrant costumes, stilt walkers and tasty culinary creations — winding from one end of the island to the other.

Tiffins Signature Restaurant

In addition to the diverse new entertainment offerings, guests will enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s new signature eatery, Tiffins. Open for both lunch and dinner, this new signature dining experience will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. “Tiffin” is an Indian English word meaning midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling.

New Adventures with Favorite Attractions

Most attractions remain open at nightfall, and will shine like never before. At sundown, Kali River Rapids will reveal mysterious twists and turns throughout the rainforest with dramatic and drenching fun. Expedition Everest thrills adventurers as it lurches forward and backward through the icy peaks of the Himalayas. At night, the majestic mountain challenges trekkers to an evening ride revealing breathtaking views of the Animal Kingdom canopied by starlight. Amidst the colorful midway games at Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama in DinoLand U.S.A., the thrills turn up aboard the zany Triceratop Spin or Primeval Whirl under the lights.

More Magic to Come with “Rivers of Light”

The nighttime will grow even more magical with the premiere of the majestic nighttime jewel, “Rivers of Light.” This illuminating musical experience – currently in development with a premiere date to be announced soon – will celebrate the magic of animals, humans and the natural world with a blend of performers, floating lanterns and theatrical animal imagery.

On the natural stage of Discovery River, guests will marvel as a timeless custom comes to life before their eyes in a stirring performance. The ceremony begins with the arrival of a pair of mystical hosts, two complementary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. They set out from the shore on elaborate lantern vessels, engaging in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits. With these storytellers as guides, the wonders of “Rivers of Light” unfold, building to a magnificent finale with bursts of light as animal images soar to the heavens– signifying the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of light.

To create “Rivers of Light,” Imagineers and Disney Creative Entertainment are collaborating with experts including award-winning master designer Michael Curry. Film composer Don L. Harper created the soaring musical score for the nighttime show, which also includes an original song by noted composer Mark Mancina. Disney also collaborated with the award-winning filmmakers at Disneynature to bring never-before-seen footage, telling dramatic and compelling stories from the animal world to the show.

April 5, 2016

Rivers of Light and Nighttime Disney's Animal Kingdom Experiences Delayed!

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Disney has just announced that Disney's Animal Kingdom Rivers of Light and all other nighttime experiences that were going to debut on April 22, 2016, have been delayed. The new show and other elements may not be ready until mid- or late May.

The Disney Parks Blog also released a sneak peek video of the Nighttime Magic at the Tree of Life.

March 31, 2016

More Details About Tiffins at Animal Kingdom

(from the Disney Parks Blog)

Tiffins, in Disney's Animal Kingdom's Discovery Island area, opens this summer with dishes inspired by the world travels of the park’s creators.

“Tiffin” is the Indian word for a lunchbox used by travelers (also a mid-day meal), and the 252-seat restaurant in the park’s Discovery Island area will open daily for lunch and dinner with menus that takes diners to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

A detailed map within the restaurant’s entryway sets the stage for an immersive dining experience celebrating world travel, with bold artwork derived from sketches, journals and research from those who created the theme park.

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“Tiffins is the signature restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, celebrating the culture of design and research that went into creating this unique park,” said Emily O’Brien, Walt Disney Imagineering executive show producer for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

O’Brien describes the interior design as “a gallery you can dine in with artwork that is a direct result of travels to Africa, Asia and South America which influenced the design of the park.” The ideas of the park’s design team, including sketches, photography, architecture and textures, are all presented in a way that is uniquely Disney.

“All the senses are explored and turned into amazing works of art,” said O’Brien. “The galleries, or dining rooms, focus on Asia [Trek Gallery with 74 seats] and Africa [Safari Gallery with 64 seats], and the third [Grand Gallery with 114 seats] pays homage to animal species that the Disney Conservation Fund works to protect.”

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The travel-inspired artwork includes a static, three-dimensional piece that features prayer flags blowing in the wind. “As our research team traveled up the high mountains of Nepal, the winds were strong,” explained O’Brien. “The prayer flags are rarely seen hanging, they are always blowing.” This portrayal of the motion is realistically captured in the display which will hang above a corner booth in the Trek Gallery.

“Tiffins is not about a make-believe place, it’s about real people and places,” said O’Brien.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is about the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action, and the adjacent Nomad Lounge brings into focus these core values. With beautiful waterfront views, the lounge focuses on storytelling, and also on guests’ travels, with large banners as “artistic representations” of answers to travel questions written on the perimeter wall. For instance, “what do you always do when traveling” or “what was your most adventurous moment?”

“We’re trying to tell the story of how guests can make a change,” said O’Brien. While the answers of Disney experts are displayed, guests also have the opportunity to purchase a tag that supports the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and to write their own answers to the questions to display above the bar– a way to share their own travel stories “so they can be a part of the story,” said O’Brien.

March 2, 2016

Disney Announces "Rivers Of Light" to Cap Full Day-Into-Night Experience Beginning April 22

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (March 2, 2016) – The magic of nature after dark takes center stage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when the all-new Rivers Of Light waterside show premieres April 22, Earth Day — marking the Walt Disney World theme park’s thrilling transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is such a majestic and beautiful park,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort, “and to now show our guests original stories that reveal the magic of nature and bring this special park to life like never before — makes nighttime at Disney’s Animal Kingdom a can’t miss experience for Walt Disney World guests this summer.”

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will transition from a day-into-night theme park, aglow with wondrous new nighttime experiences and entertainment celebrating marvels in nature, epic storytelling, innovative effects, and a festive street party. Across the park, guests can experience long-time favorites such as Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, and Kali River Rapids with more time to enjoy them into the night.

“Rivers of Light”

After the sun sets, guests will gather waterside for the majestic nighttime jewel, “Rivers of Light.” This illuminating musical experience celebrates the magic of animals and humans and the natural world with a blend of performers, floating lanterns and theatrical animal imagery.

On the natural stage of Discovery River, guests will marvel as a timeless custom comes to life before their eyes in a stirring performance. The ceremony begins with the arrival of a pair of mystical hosts, two complimentary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. They set out from the shore on elaborate lantern vessels, engaging in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits. With these storytellers as guides, the wonders of “Rivers of Light” unfold, building to a magnificent finale with bursts of light as animal images soar to the heavens– signifying the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of light, according to Michael Jung, Creative Portfolio Director, Walt Disney Imagineering.

To create “Rivers of Light,” Imagineers and Disney Creative Entertainment partnered with experts including award-winning master designer Michael Curry, whose Disney Parks contributions include “Finding Nemo: The Musical” and “Disney Festival of Fantasy parade.” Film composer Don L. Harper created the soaring musical score for the nighttime show which also includes an original song by noted composer Mark Mancina. Disney also collaborated with the award-winning filmmakers at Disneynature to bring never-before-seen footage, telling dramatic and compelling stories from the animal world to the show.

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The Tree of Life Awakens

Nearby on Discovery Island the area will come alive each night with a celebration filled with music and dance. The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will undergo extraordinary “awakenings” throughout the evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that open a window into the body of the tree, revealing colorful stories of wonder and enchantment.

Kilimanjaro Safaris after Dark

Each evening, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris daytime experience is artfully bathed in the look of sunset with special lighting allowing guests to explore and enjoy this attraction well into the night. During the expedition guests can now enjoy the wildlife at night, and may discover two new species: African wild dogs and hyenas.

Harambe Wildlife Parti/Discovery Island Carnivale

When the sun sets, the popular Village of Harambe will become a hot spot with the new Harambe Wildlife Parti. Here, “party animals” can dance alongside local street musicians and entertainers, partake in exotic foods and libations and explore the diverse wares of village artisans and merchants. And the new Discovery Island Carnivale will captivate guests with lively music, spirited dance, vibrant costumes, and tasty culinary creations, spreading from one end of the island to the other.

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Tiffins Signature Restaurant

In addition to the masterful new entertainment offerings beginning this summer, guests will enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s newest eatery, Tiffins. Open for both lunch and dinner, this new signature dining experience will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. “Tiffin” is an Indian English word meaning midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling.

January 26, 2016

Lion Guard Roars into Disney's Animal Kingdom in February

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2016) – In February, young explorers will have the chance to participate in a quest to become honorary members of the Lion Guard in a new Disney’s Animal Kingdom adventure inspired by Disney Junior’s animated series “The Lion Guard,” premiering January 15, 2016 on Disney Channel.

“The Lion Guard” continues the epic storytelling of “The Lion King” and follows Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, and his diverse group of friends as they unite to protect the Pride Lands. The story of Kion and his friends, who make up the Pride Lands’ fiercest, bravest, fastest, strongest and keenest of sight, was introduced in “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar” television movie which premiered on Disney Channel in November 2015 and became the #1 primetime cable TV telecast of 2015 among kids ages 2-5. The Education and Science experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park serve as consultants, inspiring original stories based on their first-hand experiences, and advising on the characteristics, behaviors and habitats of various African animal species.

The new Lion Guard Adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom sends young explorers on a park-wide search for the five Lion Guard characters: Kion, the fierce leader of the Lion Guard; Bunga, a brave and fearless honey badger; Fuli, a confident cheetah; Beshte, a friendly and good-natured hippo; and Ono, an intellectual egret.

The expedition begins as guests pick up a Lion Guard Adventure Map available in select merchandise locations. Youngsters will search for character statues hidden in themed locations throughout the park that represent each animal. For instance, Kion, the son of Simba, can be found in the Africa section of the park, Ono, the egret can be found near the Tree of Life, and Beshte, the hippo is hidden in Harambe. At each stop, there’s a Lion Guard banner and a sign with the character’s attribute.

As guests journey through the park, they learn about animals and the Circle of Life along the way. Once all five character traits are discovered, the adventure culminates at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Here, cast members induct participants into the Lion Guard with a special pledge, fun activities, and a Lion Guard Button identifying them as honorary members. Plus, featured character from The Lion Guard, Rafiki, joins the newest inductees for a memorable photo opportunity.

Fans can enjoy even more Lion Guard experiences inside Conservation Station with Lion Guard music, videos and a special look at Disney Junior and Disneynature’s new short-form series “It’s UnBungalievable,” a nature show hosted by “The Lion Guard’s” animated Bunga the honey badger, and Ono the egret, featuring live-action wildlife footage.

January 12, 2016

New Lion Guard Adventure at Animal Kingdom Limited Time

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Fans of "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar" will be able to play The Lion Guard Adventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom beginning February 7th.

This interactive experience will allow young guests to explore the park in search of five main characters from “The Lion Guard” – Kion, Bunga, Fuli, Beshte, and Ono, who are represented as colorful statues that are perfect for a kid-sized photo-ops. Like the movie, the experience encourages interest in protecting animals and caring for nature. Once they complete the adventure, each child can take a special pledge to become an honorary member of “The Lion Guard” and receive a special button.

The experience will be offered in Disney’s Animal Kingdom through late March, as one of many activities celebrating the debut of “The Lion Guard” series on Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

December 22, 2015

16 Reasons 2016 Will Be An ‘Unforgettable’ Year at Walt Disney World Resort

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – 2016 is shaping up to be truly unforgettable for guests at Walt Disney World Resort with the debut of new attractions and stunning shows, delectable new dining options, signature shopping locations and returning guest-favorite annual events.

Here are the top reasons to start packing your bags for a Walt Disney World vacation:

1. The Galaxy Is Sweeter Than Ever Before: New Star Wars Experiences Debut

Starting Jan. 5, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will launch its latest Star Wars-inspired experience with the addition of the “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party.” As the enthralling fireworks show lights up the sky, guests can enjoy out-of-this-world desserts and specialty drinks in this separate ticket offering until March 19. This experience complements all of the other new ways to experience Star Wars in the park, including Star Wars Launch Bay, which takes guests into the Star Wars saga, including the newest movie adventure, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, special merchandise and opportunities to encounter Chewbacca and Darth Vader.

2. Light Up The Night With “Rivers of Light” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will come alive at night with new nighttime entertainment and experiences, the most spectacular being the “Rivers of Light” show debuting this spring. With a waterway as its stage, the innovative new show will feature entertainers, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery in a performance that truly brings the animal kingdom to life at night.

3. Explore Kilimanjaro Safaris at Night

Starting in spring, guests will get to experience the African savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a whole new light: amid the orange glow of the setting sun. During the nighttime adventure, guests can extend their travels on the safaris into the evening.

4. Experience Frozen Ever After at Epcot

The new “Frozen”-inspired attraction will open its doors in the Norway pavilion at Epcot in spring. In it, guests will be transported to the Winter in Summer Celebration where Queen Elsa creates a special day for the kingdom. Guests also will travel to Elsa’s Ice Palace, the ice-blue world of the North Mountain, and the Bay of Arendelle.

5. Stop By The New Frozen Character Greeting Location at Epcot

Guests can meet the royal sisters Anna and Elsa at Epcot at a new character greeting location in the Royal Sommerhus at the Norway pavilion starting in spring.

6. Experience New Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom Park

This new, themed restaurant opens in December 2015 and gives guests the chance to experience “World Famous Jungle Cuisine” in one of several unique dining rooms, including a crew mess hall and a once-hidden secret meeting room of the famed Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant is staffed by friendly Jungle Cruise Skippers, known for their clever jokes.

7. Try New Dining Offerings at Disney Springs

Disney Springs will continue to grow in 2016, with plans to add new eateries including STK steakhouse, The Edison, Sprinkles, Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, as well as two new restaurant concepts by chefs Art Smith and Rick Bayless.

8. A Shopper’s Paradise at Disney Springs

As Disney Springs nears completion with the opening of Town Center, 2016 will bring some new, must-do retail shops to Disney Springs, including Edward Beiner, Lilly Pulitzer, L’Occitane en Provence, PANDORA, Tommy Bahama, UGG, UNIQLO and Zara.

9. Staying Fit While Having Fun With runDisney Events

The 2016 runDisney racing season kicks off Jan. 6-10 with the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This will be the first of four racing weekends held at Walt Disney World Resort in 2016, which include:

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend Feb. 18-21
Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side April 14-17
Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend Nov. 4-5.

10. Save On A Magical Stay at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

Guests visiting early in 2016 can take advantage of a special Disney resort hotels offer for stays most nights Jan. 2 – April 13 and save up to 25 percent on rooms at select Disney resort hotels. Guests can book the offer by visiting DisneyWorld.com/special-offers or by calling (407) 939-7709.

11. Enjoy Walt Disney World’s Springtime Events

Epcot will be in full bloom this spring when the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, with its colorful topiaries and dozens of Outdoor Kitchens, returns for 90 days starting March 2 through May 15, the longest the festival has ever run. And, more fun grows at Disney Springs with Raglan Road’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival March 17.

12. Soarin’ Around The World at Epcot

Guests onboard the popular Soarin’ attraction will journey to far-flung lands and fly above some of the world’s most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders when the new Soarin’ Around the World makes its debut at Epcot in 2016.

13. Dine at Tiffin’s at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The parks’ newest eatery will open its doors this spring to offer a menu inspired by the places the Imagineers traveled to when developing Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Open for both lunch and dinner, Tiffin’s will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. “Tiffin” is an Indian English word meaning midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling.

14. Celebrate The Invictus Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports

The Invictus Games will come to the United States for the first time ever in 2016. The games celebrate our wounded servicemen and women from around the world competing in a variety of sports events at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex May 8-12.

15. Experience Club Villain at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Grown-up guests can party with the Disney Villains in a soiree led by Dr. Facilier from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” at the new Club Villain at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fun starts Jan. 16 and is a separate ticket event. Tickets to Club Villain can be purchased for $99 per person, tax and gratuity included. Reservations can be made online at DisneyWorld.com, or by calling (407) 939-3463.

16. Share An Unforgettable Fall & Holiday Season

A new year means the return of festive fall events, including The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and more.

December 10, 2015

Painted Dogs and Hyenas Join the Kilimanjaro Safari

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Information and photos from the Disney Parks Blog article by Dr. Jackie Ogden

As promised at the D23 Expo in August, two new species have joined the Kilimanjaro
Safari ride in Animal Kingdom: Hyenas and Painted Dogs. Both share the same space on the savannah.

Hyenas

Groups of Hyenas are referred to as clans. The clans sometimes come together to hunt and defend their territory, but most activities are done solo or in small groups. In the wild, they hunt their own food and – contrary to public opinion – do not often scavenge another animal’s meal.

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The ranking of hyenas’ social structure and clans are also very important to a hyena’s way of life. Females are the leaders of the clans, with the lowest-ranking female ranking above the highest-ranking male. The low-ranking males will often be found on the outskirts of the clan and only participate in hunting or fights.

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Although hyenas are doing better than many species in the wild, because of their wide range and large population, they are still facing a population decline. Loss of habitat is a significant threat, as well as local communities treating them as pests and hunters poaching them.

By having hyenas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we hope to show our Guests that the misconceptions about this species are not true. These animals deserve our consideration.


Painted Dogs:

The name “painted dog” originates from their scientific name Lycaon pictus, which means “painted wolf-like animal” in Greek and Latin. Painted dogs, also known as African wild dogs, are known for their large round ears (They look a lot like Mickey Mouse ears!) and multi-colored fur coats. Each individual dog has unique paint-like splotches on their coat that are similar in their distinctiveness to a human fingerprint. Most also have bushy white-tipped tails.

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Painted dogs are among the most endangered species in Africa. By introducing painted dogs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we hope to raise awareness of the species and the threats they face, including human-habitat infringement and illegal hunting. The Disney Conservation Fund has been supporting painted dog conservation work in the wild since 1996 and has given more than half a million dollars to support painted dog conservation and research organizations.

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Painted dogs are fascinating in their social behaviors. They operate as a family unit with all members of the pack caring for each other. They will even share food with ailing members of their pack or nursing mothers. The entire pack cares for pups after they are born. Both males and females will stay back with them as “babysitters” during hunting excursions.

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When you’re on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna, I hope you can catch one of their elaborate greeting ceremonies. Each dog tries to interact with every other dog in the pack each time they wake up or return to the pack. Their yips and squeals are vocalizations that are unique to each dog and help others identify them.

The painted dogs and hyenas will share the same spot of the savanna, but at different times of the day and evening. As always, guests will experience a different safari every time they ride.


November 20, 2015

Tiffins Signature Restaurant Coming to Animal Kingdom 2016

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Tiffins will celebrate the art of traveling, featuring a diverse menu drawing from places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Open for both lunch and dinner, Tiffins will also include waterfront views from comfortable indoor and outdoor seating areas.

And if you’re wondering about the story behind the name, “tiffin” is an Indian English word for a midday meal or a type of container used to carry food while traveling.

Stay tuned for more details!

August 15, 2015

Star Wars, Toy Story Land, Pandora - the World of AVATAR, Soarin' and Iron Man among new experiences coming for guests

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2015) – Today, Disney announced a line-up of new attractions and entertainment coming to its theme parks around the world during the D23 EXPO 2015 in Anaheim, Calif.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek gave 7,500 lucky fans a behind-the-scenes look at what's to come. He was joined by Imagineers working on these projects as well as legendary filmmakers James Cameron and Jon Landau who shared new details about Pandora – The World of AVATAR including the names of the land and E-ticket attraction – AVATAR Flight of Passage. Fans also got a chance to see Marvel legend Stan Lee in a cameo appearance where he posed as an unsuspecting fan during Iron Man's dramatic entrance.

Among the many announcements Chapek shared were new and enhanced Star Wars experiences coming later this year to the Florida and California theme parks, plans for a new Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and more details on Pandora-The World of AVATAR, which is already under construction at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Chapek also shared that Soarin' Around the World will make its U.S. film debut at Epcot and Disney California Adventure taking guests to new places around the world. Additionally, fans got a preview of exclusive video of the first Marvel attraction planned for Disney parks, coming to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2016.

"From Disneyland's 60th anniversary celebration to the anticipation of Shanghai Disney Resort, we're in the midst of unprecedented growth and expansion around the globe," said Chapek. "With these new announcements, we continue our legacy in creating innovative attractions, worldwide entertainment, and magical lands that take our guests into the worlds of stories they love."

In addition to these announcements, Chapek talked about the exciting news announced earlier in the day by Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger for plans to bring Star Wars-themed lands to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland park in Anaheim. Each 14-acre land will transport guests to a never-before-seen planet with two signature attractions, including a customized secret mission on the Millennium Falcon and an epic Star Wars adventure that puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle.

Details on each of the projects include:

Star Wars Enhancements & New Experiences

From a new Star Tours adventure to Star Wars Launch Bay, from a new Jedi Training Academy to "Season of the Force," soon guests will be part of both new and enhanced experiences at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – Later this year, Star Tours will include a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving guests a new adventure in the Star Wars galaxy.

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• Star Wars Launch Bay – This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings. Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney's Hollywood Studios and in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park. Also at Disneyland park, Star Wars Launch Bay will share the space with the reimagined Super Hero HQ, featuring opportunities to meet and take photos with super heroes like Captain America and Thor, as well as experience the returning Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries. Both experiences will be available for guests later this year.

Jedi Training Academy - A favorite of younger fans is reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series "Star Wars Rebels."

Season of the Force – This new seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both coasts. In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations and more.

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Guests also will be thrilled to climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.

Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida

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The reimagining of Disney's Hollywood Studios will take guests to infinity and beyond, allowing them to step into the worlds of their favorite films, starting with Toy Story Land. This new 11-acre land will transport guests into the adventurous outdoors of Andy's backyard. Guests will think they've been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys that Andy has assembled using his vivid imagination. Using toys like building blocks, plastic buckets and shovels, and game board pieces, Andy has designed the perfect setting for this land, which will include two new attractions for any Disney park and one expanded favorite.

Family-friendly roller coaster – All on the back of Slinky Dog, this coaster will zip and zoom, plunge and coast as it takes guests on a fun, toy-filled adventure throughout the new land.

Alien saucers attraction – The famous little green aliens from the movie will take guests around for a spin in their very own flying saucers. The music, lighting and sound effects add to the flurry of action, while "The Claw" looms over.

Toy Story Mania! – Guests glide into the Toy Story Midway Games Play Set and take aim at 3D objects in a variety of fast-paced games, with an expansion that adds a third track to this popular attraction.

After Dark at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Pandora – The World of AVATAR

As part of the largest expansion in the park's history, Disney's Animal Kingdom will immerse guests into the world of Pandora, and the entire park will transform after dark with new nighttime entertainment experiences, offering guests longer days than ever before to experience this one-of-a-kind theme park.

"Rivers of Light" – Expected to open next spring, "Rivers of Light" will be an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. "Rivers of Light" will magically come to life on the natural stage of Discovery River, delighting guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Kilimanjaro Safaris – This popular attraction will be extended for a new nighttime adventure next spring, where guests will travel through the African savanna amid the magically extended orange glow of the setting sun and discover two species new to the attraction: African wild dogs and hyenas.

Pandora – The World of AVATAR – Disney's Animal Kingdom guests will journey into the magnificent world of Pandora at this new AVATAR-themed land – a world that includes floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and the winged creatures known as Banshees, giving guests a transformational experience they will never forget.

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AVATAR Flight of Passage – This E-ticket attraction, the centerpiece of Pandora, allows guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world. The spectacular flying experience will give guests a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.

Soarin' Around the World in Florida and California

Next year, guests at Epcot in Florida and Disney California Adventure in California will journey to far-flung lands and fly above some of the world's most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders when the new Soarin' Around the World makes its U.S. debut.

Iron Man Unveiled for Hong Kong Disneyland

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Iron Man landed at D23 EXPO today for a special appearance, and soon Hong Kong Disneyland guests will have the opportunity to meet and take photos with the Super Hero himself. Set to open in 2016, Iron Man Experience will be the first Marvel attraction at any Disney park, taking guests on an epic adventure over the streets and in the sky above Hong Kong. The adventure will begin at the new Stark Expo where guests board the Iron Wing to take flight and battle Hydra alongside fan-favorite Avenger, Iron Man.

June 23, 2015

New Pocahontas Meet and Greet Location at Animal Kingdom

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Animal Kingdom is the only place you will find a meet and greet with Pocahontas! The Disney Parks Blog announced today that she can be found in a new location, at the Discovery Island Character Landing.

In addition to Pocahontas, Animal Kingdom is the only place you'll find Dug and Russell from Up and ...

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... Baloo and Louie from The Jungle Book.

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September 30, 2014

Second Baby in Month Born to Endangered Gorilla Family Thriving at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Sept. 24, 2014 - It's another boy! Disney Cast Members, guests and animal lovers are celebrating the birth of the second gorilla in one month for the family of critically endangered western lowland gorillas at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Born Sept. 3 to mother Kashata and father Gino, the healthy infant joins another male gorilla who was born Aug. 7 to Azizi and Gino. The family group also includes another adult female, Benga, and a four-year-old female named Lilly.

"It's exciting to see a strong, nurturing family of this endangered species flourishing at Disney's Animal Kingdom," said Jay Therien, Animal Operations Manager for Disney's Animal Programs. "As our bouncing baby boy bonds with Kashata, we're thrilled with his health and development."

This second baby is a welcome addition to the growing gorilla family that inhabits the wooded sanctuary of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney's Animal Kingdom. As the two new infants adjust to their environment, members of the primate care team at Disney's Animal Kingdom are delighted with the evolving family dynamic. As an experienced mother, Kashata cares capably for both this newborn and her daughter, Lilly, and serves as a maternal role model for new mother Azizi as she nurtures her own infant. And despite his imposing size and stature, Gino is remarkably tender with his two new babies, providing protection and guidance for his family.

This is the fifth gorilla 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. The first gorilla birth at Disney's Animal Kingdom occurred in 1997 before the park opened, the second baby arrived in 1999, a third followed in 2010 and the fourth came just last month.

Disney's Animal Kingdom also participates in AZA Species Survival Plans for animals including elephants, cotton-top tamarins and okapi. Aside from breeding activities, Disney's Animal Programs team remains active in gorilla conservation in other areas. The team:

-- Provides staff expertise for GRACE, the first rescue and rehabilitation center in eastern Africa for orphaned gorillas. Designed to ultimately reintroduce gorillas back into the wild, the effort is supported by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, which has provided more than $24 million to conservation efforts around the globe since it started in 1995.

-- Innovated an animal training technique that enables experts to monitor gorillas' heart health by administering cardiac ultrasound exams on fully alert gorillas.

GORILLA FACTS:

After a pregnancy of nearly nine months, female gorillas give birth to one infant that typically weighs just four pounds. After birth, infant gorillas cling to their mothers' fur for the first several months, then ride on their mothers' backs through the first two or three years of life.

Gorillas are typically weaned between the ages of four and five years, but begin to eat solids between two to six months.

Troops are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females and their offspring.

In the wild, western lowland gorillas are found in lowland tropical rainforests throughout western Africa.

Gorillas are the largest of all primates, standing up to six feet tall and weighing up to 450 lbs.

The gorilla habitat in Africa is quickly disappearing due to the mining of coltan, a mineral used to make batteries for electronics. Recycling cell phones or laptops may contribute to gorilla conservation.

August 18, 2014

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Birth of Endangered Gorilla

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Endangered Gorilla Born at Disney's Animal Kingdom Endangered Gorilla Born at Disney's Animal Kingdom


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Aug. 15, 2014 - As they follow the path that winds along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, guests at Disney's Animal Kingdom may get a glimpse of one of nature's most endearing sights - a newborn male gorilla cuddling with his mother. Born Aug. 7 to mother Azizi and father Gino, the healthy infant has already become an integral member of his family group, which includes two other adult females, Kashata and Benga and a four-year-old female named Lilly.

Members of the primate team at Disney's Animal Kingdom are closely watching mother and baby to ensure Azizi is adapting to her maternal duties, such as properly holding the baby and keeping up with his demanding nursing schedule. Most gorilla mothers keep their offspring close for several months as the infants adjust to their environment. Gorillas are typically weaned between the ages of four and five, but begin to eat solids between two to six months.

"We're pleased with the way Azizi is bonding with her baby and meeting his needs," said Jay Therien, Animal Operations Manager for Disney's Animal Programs. "As we work to maintain the population of critically endangered western lowland gorillas, healthy babies like this little guy are critical to the survival of his species."

The new baby, which is yet to be named, is the fourth gorilla 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. The first gorilla birth at Disney's Animal Kingdom occurred in 1997 before the park opened, the second baby arrived in 1999 and the third was born in 2010.

Disney's Animal Kingdom also participates in AZA Species Survival Plans for animals including elephants, cotton-top tamarins and okapi. Aside from breeding activities, Disney's Animal Programs team remains active in gorilla conservation in other areas. The team currently:

-- Provides staff expertise for the first rescue and rehabilitation center in eastern Africa for orphaned gorillas. Designed to ultimately reintroduce gorillas back into the wild, the effort is supported by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, which has provided more than $24 million to conservation efforts around the globe since it started in 1995.

-- Innovated a training technique developed by the Disney's Animal Kingdom team that monitors gorillas' heart health by administering cardiac ultrasound exams on fully alert gorillas.

GORILLA FACTS:

Gorillas are the largest of all primates, standing 5-6 feet tall and weighing up to 450 lbs.

After a pregnancy of nearly nine months, female gorillas give birth to one infant that typically weighs just four pounds. After birth, infant gorillas cling to their mothers' fur for the first several months, then ride on their mothers' backs from through the first two or three years of life.

In the wild, western lowland gorillas are found in lowland tropical rainforests throughout western Africa.

The gorilla habitat in Africa is quickly disappearing due to the mining of coltan, a mineral used to make batteries for electronics. Recycling cell phones or laptops may contribute to gorilla conservation.

May 3, 2014

"Rivers of Light" Nighttime Show Slated for Animal Kingdom

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As announced at a media event on Friday, May 2, all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular, are among the exciting projects coming in the years ahead as Disney's Animal Kingdom begins the largest expansion in park history.

"Rivers of Light" promises to be an innovative show unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The show will magically come to life on the broad, natural stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest. No estimated date was given for this new evening entertainment.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Launches 'Harambe Nights' June 7

Celebrates Grandest Tales and Tastes of Africa

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (May 2, 2014) -- " Harambe Nights, a dazzling theatrical production based on the beloved Disney classic film, "The Lion King," and an energetic street party with gourmet dining will debut in June 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Oscar-winning movie, it was announced today.

A 55-minute theatrical extravaganza, "The Lion King Concert in the Wild" comprises celebrity narrators, a live orchestra, choir and special effects to present the story of Simba's coming of age like never before. A lively welcome reception and the post-show street party featuring Afro-pop rhythms, performers and a buffet of culinary creations keep the celebration rocking through the evening.

The theme park's first-ever ticketed special event will welcome guests every Saturday from June 7 through August 9 to this memorable evening of theatrical storytelling, inspired dining, live music and dance amid the non-stop fun of an immersive street party.

It all begins with a welcome reception in the park's Harambe Village where savory appetizers and a selection of refreshing wines and beers are on the menu.

Soon after, guests will find their seats waiting at the brand-new Harambe Theatre, where dramatic lighting, breathtaking scenic pieces and projection exclusive to this production will transport them to the African savanna. "The Lion King Concert in the Wild" show brings the humor and heart of the story to life by blending excerpts from the Disney classic film with stage theatrics. Each week, a celebrity narrator backed by a live orchestra will join a company of singers and dancers to recreate the drama of an African story circle. The lineup of narrators will include Viola Davis, David Alan Grier, Joe Morton and other noteworthy actors.

UPDATE: Narrators for Harambe Nights are:

June 7: Viola Davis

June 14: Avery Brooks

June 21: Montego Glover

June 28: David Alan Grier

July 5: Michael Beach

July 12: Harry Lennix

July 19: Joe Morton

July 26: Alfre Woodard

Aug. 2: Brian Stokes Mitchell

Aug. 9: Patina Miller

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Beginning with the iconic birth-of-Simba scene and continuing through the show's gripping climax, guests will be immersed in Simba's journey to find his place as the Lion King. The guest narrator adds emotional perspective to the original tale inspired, in part, by African folklore and Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

As the show wraps, the celebration continues in Harambe Village to the tune of live Afro-pop rhythms. Dancers, costumed stilt-performers, puppets, popular characters from "The Lion King" and a DJ ratchet up the fun and encourage guests to participate in the street party.

The celebration will feature a culinary nod to Africa with multiple buffet stations of perfectly seasoned dishes for pairing with a selection of beers, wines and specialty beverages all included in the event admission. Soft drinks and water also are offered. Sweet bites of gourmet desserts under the stars and a special farewell experience will deliver a delicious ending to a magical evening.

Exclusive Lion King-themed merchandise and collectibles will be available to Harambe Nights guests. A limited-release case for iPhones 4 and 5 designed by Disney Design Group artist Randy Noble will feature imagery from "The Lion King," and a 20th anniversary "The Lion King" puzzle will be offered. Other exclusive merchandise will include art and apparel.

General admission tickets for Harambe Nights run $119 ages 10 and up; $79 ages 9 and under. Premium floor seating tickets run $134 ages 10 and up; $94 ages 9 and under. The event runs from 7-10:30 p.m., and parking is complimentary.

To reserve tickets for Harambe Nights, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

January 18, 2014

2014 Nature Events at Walt Disney World

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Lions, Tigers, Bears and More Celebrated at
2014 Families and Nature Events at the Walt Disney World Resort

Throughout 2014 the Disney Animal Program team has events planned at both Disney's Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot.

According to Dr. Jackie Ogden, Vice President Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks, "The goal of each is to provide kids and families with a special opportunity to connect with nature, talk to our animal experts, and learn more about some of the fantastic creatures with whom we share our planet."


Here is the schedule for 2014.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom:

March 4: Spring Forward for Amphibians Day - Just a few days before we adjust our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time, we're "springing forward" to celebrate frogs, toads and other amphibians.

April 22: Party for the Planet in celebration of Earth Day - Every day is a Party for the Planet at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as guests and cast members join together to celebrate the wonders of nature, but, on Earth Day, there will be even more natural magic. Included is a celebration of the release of Disneynature's new True Life Adventure "Bears," in theaters April 18, which showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life's most important lessons.

May 6: International Migratory Bird Day - Time to celebrate of one the wonders of nature - bird migration - and the ways we can help protect birds on their journeys.

May 20: World Turtle Day - Turtles are fascinating creatures, and really cool dudes, too - just ask Crush! Both Disney's Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends celebrate turtles with special activities.

June 10: Pollinator Day - butterflies, bees and other pollinators are the stars of this celebration.

July 29: Big Cat Day - It's all about the largest cats, like lions and tigers - cats to whom you wouldn't want to say, "here, kitty, kitty."

August 5: Primate Day - The perfect place to find out what a 400-pound gorilla and a one-pound cotton-top tamarin have in common.

September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day - Learn fun facts and important conservation information about magnificent and endangered elephants and rhinos.

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

April 22: Earth Day Celebration - It's an ocean of fun at The Seas on Earth Day as this Earth Day celebration focuses on marine animals.

May 20: World Turtle Day - See the magnificent sea turtles swim by in the main aquarium and find out what each of us can do to keep turtles safe in the wild.

June 4: World Oceans Day - Join Nemo, Dory, Crush and the rest of the gang in celebrating the wonders of the oceans.

January 10, 2014

Groundbreaking for AVATAR-Inspired Land at Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Using Na'vi-inspired shovels and assisted by a Na'vi, (left to right) George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort; Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France; Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; a Na'vi; Jon Landau, AVATAR Producer; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering; and Joe Rohde, creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, pose Jan. 8, 2014 during the ceremonial groundbreaking of an AVATAR-inspired land at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The multi-year and largest expansion in Disney's Animal Kingdom history, the new land will invite Walt Disney World Resort guests to experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with the banshees, encounter the Na'vi and explore a rich cultural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night.


November 8, 2013

Baby Zebra Adds its Stripes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Savanna

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Nov. 1, 2013 - Sporting black and white stripes, there's a new addition to the savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. In October, the team welcomed a rare, baby Hartmann's Mountain zebra.

The filly and her mother are bonding well and doing fine after the yearlong gestation. Disney's animal care team, including veterinarians carefully monitored the mother throughout her pregnancy.

Typically found in mountainous regions of southwestern Africa, the species is characterized by a striking pattern of narrow vertical stripes covering its head and body. The species is considered endangered, with only 50 Hartmann's mountain zebras in the United States and an estimated 7,000 throughout the world.

Disney's Animal Programs team is actively involved in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan for this critical species. The team is proud to have a successful birth of a rare species.

The Hartmann's mountain zebra is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species, which determines the risk of extinction to animals. The zebra's endangerment continues due to experience of loss of habitat in their native Africa.

Just a few fun facts about zebras:

-- With three species of zebra, they can be distinguished by their stripes: plains zebras have wider stripes that wrap around their bellies. The Hartmann's Mountain zebras have thinner stripes that don't extend around the belly.

-- No two individual zebras look exactly alike.

-- Most scientists believe that the zebra's stripes may serve to break up the outline of the zebra's body in the herd and provide some camouflage when the zebra is standing in tall grass.

-- The Hartmann's Mountain zebra can weigh up to 800 pounds and grow up to eight and a half feet.

-- Mountain zebras eat mostly grass, bark, leaves and tree and shrub shoots. Though they prefer mountainous regions for their habitat, they are known to move to lower elevations to graze in cold weather and seek shelter in caves or wooded areas.

April 19, 2013

Animal Kingdom 15th Anniversary Celebration

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Earth Day is always a special day at Animal Kingdom because the park opened on April 22, 1998.
This year Animal Kingdom celebrates birthday #15!

The Disney Parks blog has released some information about special festivities for the day:

** Get there by 8:30 a.m.! While the park and its attractions don't open until 9 a.m., the turnstiles will open at 8:30 a.m., and Dr. Jackie Ogden will bejoining Disney's Animal Kingdom Vice President Josh D'Amaro who is hosting a special 15th anniversary ceremony that will take place in front of the Tree of Life at 8:40 a.m.

**Commemorative guide map: Be sure to pick one up when you enter the park. And while in the Main Entrance area, also pick up a keepsake postcard that serves as a Party for the Planet guide.

** Special conservation button: Starting April 22 and for a limited time (until quantities run out), those who give to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) at Disney's Animal Kingdom will receive a commemorative 15th anniversary DWCF button.

** Party for the Planet activities: In Africa, children will learn how to identify animals by observing tracks and other clues. In Asia, families will find out how choosing "green" products can make a big difference for wildlife and nature. At Rafiki's Planet Watch, families will discover fun ways to spend time in nature and participate in activities inspired by the Disneynature films "African Cats," "Chimpanzee," and "Wings of Life." Guests also can talk with cast members who work on conservation projects around the world.

** Guest artists and special merchandise: Speak with specialists from Elemental Nursery and Just Plumerias, who will be on hand to feature their beautiful plants and topiaries, along with special guest appearances. There will be face painting with a variety of animal images and the opportunity to pose for a fun portrait.

** Special 15th anniversary merchandise (quantities limited).

** Specialty snacks: A party wouldn't be a party without snacks-enjoy an Earth Day cupcake.

February 21, 2013

Character Changes at Animal Kingdom - Adventurers Outpost Announced

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Beastly Bazaar located in the Discovery Island area of Animal Kingdom closed last August. It was announced a new character meet and greet would open in that building later in the year.

Walt Disney World has finally been announced (via the Disney Parks Blog) that the location will open this spring as The Adventurers Outpost, a character Meet and Greet with Mickey and Minnie.

With Mickey and Minnie moving out of Camp Minnie-Mickey, who will take their place? According to Disney Communications Manager Shawn Slater, "some of the friends you might find there include Chip 'n' Dale, Baloo, King Louie or Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. The best thing to do is to check with a Cast Member on the day of your visit."

Taking Pooh and Tigger's place at the Discovery Island Character Landing will be Daisy and Donald Duck.


January 17, 2013

Wilderness Explorers Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Fans of Disney/Pixar's movie UP will be excited to learn that about a new adventure coming to Animal Kingdom, Wilderness Explorers.

Remember Russell? the stowaway in Up. He is a Wilderness Explorer and loves to earn badges through his adventures!

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Just like Russell, now you too will be able to become a Wilderness Explorer with new adventures in Animal Kingdom and the possibility of earning up to 30 badges.

Disney California Adventure already has a version of the Wilderness Explorer Program.

At the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail guests are given the opportunity to become Senior Wilderness Explorers.

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At the entrance, cast members are giving out a pamphlet which describe the tasks that must be completed to earn the Tracking, Bravery, Rock Climbing, Wolf Howl, Animal Spirit, and Puzzle Solving badges.

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One of the first things to do is to find Kevin's tracks. Whether or not someone has completed the tasks is on the honor system - for each task just scratch off the silver coating on the pamphlet to reveal the badge that was earned.

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Upon completing all the tasks prospective Explorers can attend the Wilderness Explorer Ceremony. Russell eventually arrives and everyone is promoted to Senior Wilderness Explorer. After the ceremony there is a meet-and-greet with Russell, which is where they hand out the Senior Wilderness Explorer badge.

The program in Disney's Animal Kingdom should be much different with an entire park full of birds and animals and many possible adventures! It will open this spring.

June 27, 2012

Okapi Baby Born at Disney's Animal Kingdom

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The cast at Disney's Animal Kingdom is happy to announce that late last week -- on June 21 -- they welcomed a new okapi calf to the family. The female calf has been named Nafuna, an African name meaning "delivered feet first."

First-time mom Zawadi and the calf, who weighed 35 pounds at birth, are doing very well and are being monitored closely by the animal care team in their backstage home at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The calf's dad, Akili, lives at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, where guests also can see okapi on the resort's savanna.

Guests will have two opportunities to catch a glimpse of the okapi calf a couple of months from now, when she goes out in the park's Ituri Forest. Guests can see okapi when they ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition and when they travel the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.

In the wild, the okapi is considered rare, and they are threatened by habitat loss due to logging and human settlement, as well as by hunting.

Okapi fun facts:

-- The okapi's stripes work as camouflage when hiding in the partial sunlight that filters through the forest canopy.
-- Okapi are typically solitary animals, living alone or in mother-offspring pairs. They are extremely wary and secretive, making okapi very difficult to observe in the lowland rainforest of central Africa where they make their home.
-- The okapi's gestation period is about 14 months.
-- Adult okapi can reach weights of 550-720 pounds, with females typically being larger than males. They can live over 30 years in zoological facilities.
-- Normally silent, female okapi vocalize with a soft "chuff" during courtship and when calling to their calves. There are infrasonic qualities to their call, which are below the frequency that the human ear can pick up.

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.

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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.

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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

February 10, 2012

Kilimanjaro Safari Changes at Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Beginning this spring, Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park will undergo some wild changes, aimed at giving guests the opportunity to see more of their favorite animals, specifically zebras, during the 20-minute open-air ride.

Though zebras have long been part of Kilimanjaro Safaris, they are often overlooked because of their location on the savanna. By creating a new habitat for the zebras, Guests will have more of an opportunity to see them.

The audio-animatronics "Little Red" elephant and related "poacher" set pieces will be removed as the theme park adds a new savanna space, including a watering hole for live animals. Work will begin in March and construction is scheduled to be complete in fall 2012. Kilimanjaro Safaris will remain open during the construction.

January 11, 2012

Young lion leaving Virginia Zoo in Norfolk for Florida

A young, male African lion will be leaving the Virginia Zoo and heading to Orlando, Fla., to become part of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

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Dakari is the last of his siblings to move to a new home. His brothers went to the Pittsburgh Zoo and his sister went to the Knoxville Zoo, a news release from the zoo in Norfolk said. The four cubs were born at the Norfolk zoo on May 2, 2009, to father Mramba and mother Zola.

Read the entire article and see the other photos at: http://hamptonroads.com/2012/01/young-lion-leaving-virginia-zoo-norfolk-florida

December 28, 2011

Disney's Animal Kingdom Party for the Planet

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, Guests will "Party for the Planet" during a week-long, park-wide Earth Day celebration, with the first and last days--April 13 and April 22-featuring even more fun activities. Guests will learn what they can do to make their backyards wildlife-friendly and discover other ways to protect nature and conserve wildlife, including chimpanzees and other African animals, in celebration of the release of the newest Disneynature film, "Chimpanzee."

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Party goers can participate in a variety of interactive and engaging activities that connect families and children with nature. And they will learn about conservation projects around the globe that are supported by Disney's Animal Programs Cast Members and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

August 28, 2011

New Baby Elephant Takes Center Stage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Aug. 25, 2011 - The elephant herd at Disney's Animal Kingdom got just a little larger with the birth of a baby calf. Weighing 311 pounds, the male African elephant was welcomed into the group by his mother Vasha, 10 herd members and a team of animal care professionals assisting with the birth.

The 25-year-old mother delivered the herd's sixth offspring after gaining more than 800 pounds during a 22-month gestation. This latest addition, which has yet to be named, is the second calf for Vasha, who gave birth to a female calf, Kianga, in 2004.

With support from the animal care team, the newborn, whose first tentative steps are becoming stronger and more confident, is now successfully nursing from his mother. Vasha has been getting to know the calf, gently touching the young animal with her trunk and keeping a watchful eye on him.

"The natural bonding between mother and calf is fascinating," said Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president of Disney's Animal, Science and Environment Programs. "The team is encouraged by the early interaction between mother and calf and will continue to monitor them closely for the next several weeks."

The next critical milestone is for the calf to continue the bonding process with his mother who will teach him important lessons and protect him as he gradually acclimates to the rest of the savannah herd over the next several weeks. With 12 elephants, Disney's Animal Kingdom has one of the largest African elephant herds in North America, including four males and eight females.

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Vasha became pregnant through artificial insemination in October 2009 and received extensive pre-natal care throughout pregnancy. Since early August, animal care teams have provided round-the-clock monitoring, regular ultrasounds and daily hormone monitoring to more accurately predict the beginning of labor. In the past few years, Disney's animal care teams have been able to narrow the birth window to within four days, which enables them to better prepare for the delivery. With this birth, the team had been on heightened baby-alert since Monday.

This is the sixth elephant born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Others include:

•Tufani, a male, born in 2003;
•Kianga, a female, born in 2004;
•Nadirah a female, born in 2005;
•Tsavo, a male, born in 2008; and
•Luna, a female born 2010.

Disney has been at the forefront of efforts to better understand and care for endangered elephants. Disney's Animal Kingdom is part of a breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that is focused on sustaining the elephant population in North America. AZA's Elephant Species Survival Plan has called for a five-fold increase in African elephant reproduction efforts - using both natural and artificial breeding methods - in order to create a self-sustaining elephant population among North American zoos and wildlife centers.

Baby Elephant Facts

•Depending on the calf, it could take several days for the calf to coordinate trunk movements. Initially, it may only be able to wave it in the air, suck on it or trip over it. Typically within a week the calf has gained enough control to begin picking up small objects and food.

•Suckling up to 12 liters a day, baby elephants may depend on mother's milk for up to three years, although they can be weaned at two years of age.

•Calves learn how and what to eat by watching the older elephants.

June 21, 2011

Real-life Rafiki - a Baby Mandrill - Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., June 15, 2011 -- After six and a half months of waiting, Disney's Animal Kingdom is welcoming a "colorful" addition to its animal family. A male baby mandrill was born May 30 to first-time mother, Kelley, and is the third one born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Mom and baby are doing very well.

Native to Africa, mandrills are among the largest species of monkey in the world and are considered endangered. They're known for their bright coloration, furry head crests, manes and beards. Adults also have thick purple and blue ridges along their noses, big red lips and golden beards. Fans of Disney's animated movie "The Lion King" might recall Rafiki, who was not only a colorful character, but a mandrill as well.

So far, Disney's animal care experts are encouraged by the bonding between mother and infant. The baby spends most of his day nursing and sleeping, and is under close observation by the animal care team. The baby and mother are starting to make short forays into their habitat on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, joining other members of the mandrill group.

"The new mom is very relaxed but protective," said Barb Weber, primate zoological manager at Disney's Animal Kingdom. "We're pleased another young female mandrill, Scarlett, has taken a keen interest in the newborn. This is a great experience for her because she is learning from the baby's mom how to be a good mom herself."

Preparations for motherhood began long before the baby mandrill was born. For example, primate keepers worked with Kelley during pregnancy to pick up objects which helped simulate holding her baby after birth.

With the new baby, the number of mandrills that make their home at Disney's Animal Kingdom has grown to 12. Disney's Animal Kingdom is part of a breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that is focused on sustaining the mandrill population.

Fun Facts:

Typical mandrill babies weigh between one and two pounds at birth.
Adult female mandrills weigh an average of 30 pounds. Adult males are larger and average 60-100 pounds.
The average life span of a mandrill is approximately 20 - 30 years.

February 21, 2011

Baby Gorilla Reaches Milestone

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 18, 2011 -- At Disney's Animal Kingdom, a very rare gorilla named Lilly is about to reach a monumental milestone - her first birthday. And while birthdays in the animal world are not typically marked on a calendar, Lilly's first year has been historic.

Since she was born last Feb. 19, animal care experts around the globe have been keeping a watchful eye on Lilly's development. Within weeks after her birth, Disney's animal care team noticed she was different. She was much smaller than other gorillas her age and was not meeting typical behavioral milestones, such as grasping, rolling over and crawling. In addition, Lilly's mother Kashata seemed to be holding the endangered western lowland gorilla longer than normal.

Puzzled, the team scoured medical journals and found no reports of similar cases. After consulting with external medical and pediatric experts, they conducted a series of tests to rule out possible causes, such as vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders and liver abnormalities. While the exact cause of her condition is still unknown, animal care experts believe she may have a developmental delay that affects her nerve and muscle cells. Without similar documented case studies in veterinary literature, the team realized that they had to pioneer new protocols in animal care and shifted their emphasis to treatment.

Each day, a team of animal keepers engages Lilly in what appears to be a form of play, but is actually a form of structured therapy. They encourage her to climb, roll over and grasp objects, including food and toys, all in an effort to strengthen her muscles and spark her curiosity. Since September, the team has noted a marked difference in the young primate. She now weighs 13 pounds - three pounds more than she did in November, and she appears much more active and social among her family grouping.

"We are committed to providing all our animals with the best care," according to veterinarian Mark Stetter, D.V.M. "In Lilly's case, we are encouraged by the progress in her stamina, strength and dexterity. But since there are no other documented cases like her, we are continuing to monitor her closely."

Along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Disney guests are captivated by Lilly. They are in awe of her toddler-like curiosity and marvel watching the tender interaction between her and the other gorillas on exhibit, including her 450-pound father, Gino.

For Disney's Animal Programs team members, there's no better way to celebrate a baby's first birthday. "We are sharing the knowledge we're learning from Lilly among professionals in the medical and zoological communities to help improve care for animals in zoological habitats and conservation efforts in the wild," said Stetter.

July 20, 2010

Baby Warthogs and Oryx Calves Join Disney’s Animal Kingdom Family

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., July 14, 2010 - Babies abound at Disney's Animal Kingdom this summer, which has seen multiple births over the past few weeks. Adding the pitter-patter of tiny hooves to the herd: three baby warthogs and two oryx calves.

Earlier this month, Disney's Animal Kingdom welcomed three baby warthogs, all males -- born July 1. This is the first litter for their mother, who is doing an excellent job raising her offspring. The three new piglets increase the warthog population at Disney's Animal Kingdom to six, including four males and two females. Disney's animal care experts expect the baby warthogs, which are currently in their backstage home, to join their mothers on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna in several weeks. There, these animals will help guests learn more about the challenges that warthogs face in the wild due to habitat destruction.

In late June, two male scimitar-horned oryx calves also were born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild due to poaching and other challenges. Efforts are under way to reintroduce this species to protected areas of Senegal, Africa. With the new calves, Disney's Animal Kingdom now has four males and five females in the herd. The oryx moms and their calves are bonding in their backstage home.

"We are proud that guests visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom have the opportunity to see wildlife that are extinct in the wild, like the scimitar-horned oryx, and fascinating species like the warthog," said Matt Hohne, Disney's Animal Programs Animal Operations director. "By connecting people in a personal way with wildlife and nature - and talking with them about conservation and what they can do to help - we hope to inspire them to protect wildlife and wild places."

The recent Animal Kingdom births follow recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which coordinates Population Management and Species Survival Plans for animal care facilities in North America. Through cooperative involvement with the AZA, Disney's Animal Kingdom has successfully reproduced many endangered animals, including African elephants, black rhinos, okapi, gorillas and many rare birds.

July 16, 2010

New Adventure for Guests Coming to Animal Kingdom

As reported by the Disney Parks Blog:

If you've ever wanted to venture off the beaten path and farther into the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition savannah, you'll have a chance later this year. Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park will be offering a new, immersive experience that'll take a small group of Guests on personalized, guided treks along some unexplored areas of the Harambe Reserve.

During the excursions, you'll be able to spend more time observing the wildlife on the savannah and have a chance to learn about the animals and their behaviors from one of our Disney guides. Adventurers will also trek through an undeveloped forest area of the Harambe Reserve and then board a unique vehicle specially designed for the rest of the quest.

Walt Disney Imagineers are still working on many of the details. Reservations for this specially priced tour won't begin until later this year.

May 24, 2010

Baby Elephant Arrives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 21, 2010 - The elephant herd at Disney's Animal Kingdom just expanded - by about 288 pounds. That amount represents the weight of the newborn female calf born late last night.

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Twenty-two-year-old Donna gave birth to the herd's fifth offspring after gaining more than 400 pounds during a 22-month gestation. This latest addition, which has yet to be named, is the second calf for Donna, which gave birth to a female calf, Nadirah, in 2005. This birth raises the number of elephants in the Disney's Animal Kingdom herd to thirteen, including five males and eight females.

"Elephant births are among the most amazing and complicated processes in the animal kingdom," according to Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president of Disney's Animal Programs. "A team of dedicated animal professionals have worked with the expecting mother attentively throughout the course of her pregnancy. At this point, we're optimistic for the calf's likelihood of survival and are thrilled that both Donna and her calf are doing well."

With assistance from the animal care team, the newborn, whose first tentative steps are becoming stronger and more confident, is now successfully nursing from her mother. Donna has been getting to know her calf, gently touching the young animal with her trunk. The next critical milestone is for the calf to continue the bonding process with her mother who will teach her important lessons and protect her as she is introduced to the rest of the savannah herd in several weeks.

Donna became pregnant through artificial insemination in July 2008 and received extensive pre-natal care throughout her pregnancy. Zookeepers added more exercises to her daily routine, hoping to strengthen the muscles needed during the birthing process. In addition to regular ultrasounds, veterinarians and elephant managers monitored her hormone levels on a daily basis to help them determine when she would give birth. Labor appeared imminent last night and the animal care team remained with her to provide round-the-clock care until the female calf was born May 20 around 11:30 p.m.

This is the fifth elephant born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. In addition to Donna's first female calf, Nadirah, Tufani, a male, was born in 2003; Kianga, a female, was born in 2004; and Tsavo, the youngest male, joined the herd in 2008. All remain on the savannah at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Disney has been at the forefront of efforts to better understand and care for endangered elephants. Disney's Animal Kingdom is part of a breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that is focused on sustaining the elephant population in North America. AZA's Elephant Species Survival Plan has called for a five-fold increase in African elephant reproduction efforts - using both natural and artificial breeding methods - in order to create a self-sustaining elephant population among North American zoos and wildlife centers

Baby Elephant Facts

· Depending on the calf, it could take several days for the calf to coordinate trunk movements. Initially, it may only be able to wave it in the air, suck on it or trip over it. Typically within a week the calf has gained enough control to begin picking up small objects and food.

· Suckling up to 12 liters a day, baby elephants may depend on mother's milk for up to three years, although they can be weaned at two years of age.

· By the time a calf is nine months old, 40 per cent of its diet is vegetation. The calf learns how and what to eat by watching the older elephants.

March 2, 2010

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Birth of Endangered Gorilla

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 1, 2010 -- Guests visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom are getting a special treat along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail where they can get a rare glimpse of a newborn gorilla born Feb. 19. The critically endangered western lowland gorilla, whose gender is still unknown, is doing well and has already become an integral member of the gorilla family group which includes first-time mother, Kashata, father Gino, and two other females, Benga and Hope.

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Members of the primate team at Disney's Animal Kingdom are encouraged by Kashata's natural instincts at motherhood. First-time mothers often experience difficulty knowing the right things to do. They must learn to properly hold the baby and adapt to a demanding nursing schedule. "Kashata has been a model mother from the moment the baby was born, said Matt Hohne, animal operations director for Disney's Animal Programs. "She immediately knew how to properly hold the baby and her nursing skills have been exemplary."

Since Kashata has been holding the baby close to her body, animal keepers have yet to determine the baby's gender. Most gorilla mothers keep their offspring close for several months while the baby adjusts to the environment. In addition, gorilla babies typically nurse for approximately 12 months and may be weaned between the ages of four and five.

The new baby, which is yet to be named, is the third gorilla 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. The first gorilla birth occurred in 1997 before Disney's Animal Kingdom opened, and the second baby arrived in 1999.

Aside from breeding activities, Disney's Animal Programs team remains active in gorilla conservation in other areas. The team currently:

· provides staff expertise for the creation of the first rescue and rehabilitation center in eastern Africa for orphaned gorillas to ultimately reintroduce them back into the wild. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has provided funding to support this effort.
· has developed an innovative training technique that enables team members to monitor the heart health of gorillas at Disney's Animal Kingdom by administering cardiac ultrasound exams on fully alert gorillas.

GORILLA FACTS:
· Gorillas are the largest of all primates, standing 5-6 feet tall and weighing up to 450 lbs.
· In the wild, western lowland gorillas are found in lowland tropical rainforests throughout western Africa.
· Gorilla habitat in Africa is quickly disappearing because of coltan mining, a mineral used to make batteries for electronics. Recycling cell phones or laptops may contribute to gorilla conservation.


February 15, 2010

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

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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

October 19, 2009

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes Two Baby Giraffes

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Oct. 19, 2009 -- Walt Disney World Resort recently welcomed two male calves to the giraffe herd at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Weighing 153 pounds, Bolo was born Oct. 12 to second-time mother Big Girl, who first birthed a female calf in November 2005. On Oct. 5, the Disney's Animal Programs team helped to deliver 166-pound calf Bruehler from third-time mother Aibuni. As newborns, both male calves stand nearly six feet tall and could grow to be as tall as 15 - 18 feet as adults.

Both calves and mothers appear to be doing well according to veterinarians and animal care managers. The young males, who began nursing successfully soon after birth, are already feisty and very active.

"The next important milestone is for the calves to continue the bonding process with their mothers who will teach them important lessons and guide them as they are introduced to the herd in the coming weeks," said Matt Hohne, Animal Operations Director at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

These two latest bundles of joy represent the 13th and 14th giraffes born at Disney's Animal Kingdom since opening in 1998. Giraffes at Walt Disney World Resort are bred through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Population Management Plan, which is a consortium of zoos and wildlife parks working together to conserve and breed animals.

Other Fun Facts about Giraffes
· The typical gestation period for a giraffe is approximately 15 months.
· An adult giraffe's neck alone can measure up to 7-feet, and their tongues can be as long as 18 inches.
· Each giraffe has a unique set of skin markings, similar to a human fingerprint.
· Same as people, giraffes have seven neck vertebrae bones.

May 7, 2009

Disney’s Animal Experts Ensure Mother-Child Bond Among Animals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 7, 2009 - The animal care team from Walt Disney World Resort has been busy since last Mother's Day, assisting with the births of more than 440 animals and more importantly, helping to ensure that the relationship between mother and child remains uncompromised.

While much focus is given to the expert care of the animals during the birthing process, equal attention is given to the delicate and complex mother-child bonding process which uniquely varies among species and among individual animals.

For example, animal care experts at Disney's Animal Kingdom were recently monitoring two baby vultures hatched from two different sets of new parents. One pair adapted quickly to their new parenting roles, while the other pair struggled and had difficulty feeding their new offspring. Concerned about malnourishment, the animal husbandry team intervened by providing supplemental food to the smaller bird. Eventually, the struggling parents began copying the behaviors of the adept parents and improved their parenting skills. Their efforts have been successful and today, both young chicks are of equal size.

"Disney's Animal Programs team constantly balances animals' physical needs such as food and shelter with the social needs of both mother and child." said Matt Hohne, animal operations director at Disney's Animal Kingdom. "By sharing this information with guests and with other researchers, Disney's Animal Programs hopes to protect species and learn more about breeding, animal behavior, health and natural habitats, which are paramount to the success of long-term conservation efforts."

Among mammals, nearly all of the primary caregivers are mothers, but in some groups, it may take an entire village to raise a child. For instance, Walt Disney World Resort welcomed a black and white colobus monkey baby - the first of its species born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Animal keepers are typically more anxious about the parenting skills of any first-time mother, but this baby continues to thrive under the attentive and watchful eyes of first-time mother, Kabibi. She's also getting some extra help from three other adults that take turns watching the baby while the mother sleeps or eats.

Last June, second-time mother Moyo gave birth to a 327-pound male elephant calf - the heaviest animal yet to be born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. During the baby's first days, mother and son bonded quickly and the animal care team quickly became confident about the calf's future since nursing was early and successful. Some of that confidence may be attributed to experience. Having groomed and nursed a first-born, Moyo quickly remembered her prior parenting skills.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, animal experts carefully monitor the progress of mother and baby, starting with the infant's eating habits and activity levels. They also closely watch the care-giving habits of the mother to ensure the baby receives appropriate care and grooming. This level of attention is maintained not only during infancy but throughout an animal's entire lifespan.

Through successful breeding programs, Disney's animal experts are helping to increase the population of endangered animals such as the Key Largo woodrat and the Micronesian kingfisher. The goal is to eventually reintroduce these captive-born animals in the wild. Such was the case with a pair of endangered white rhinos that were born at Disney's Animal Kingdom and transferred to a wildlife preserve in Africa. This was the first reintroduction of white rhinos from the United States to Africa and marked the beginning of efforts to re-establish a rhino population -- extinct since 1972 when white rhinos were a casualty of civil unrest in the region.

This commitment to animals reaches beyond the boundaries of Disney theme parks through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, (DWCF). Since establishment in 1995, the DWCF has donated $13.8 million in funding to 750 projects in 110 countries. One of the current projects is a gorilla rescue center in the Democratic Republic of Congo where animal experts are working to rehabilitate and reintroduce orphaned gorillas that lost both parents due to poaching and other illegal activities.

March 6, 2009

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes Birth of Colobus Monkey

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 5, 2009 -- Walt Disney World Resort recently welcomed a black and white colobus monkey - the first of its species born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The infant arrived February 17 after a six-month gestation and may be seen along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail with a group of five other colobus monkeys.

While the weight, size and gender are still unknown, animal care experts are encouraged by the amount of care given by first-time mother, Kabibi. "The baby was born looking healthy and vigorous," said Rebecca Phillips, a primate manager at Disney's Animal Kingdom. "We're encouraged that the mother and baby seem to be adapting well."

At birth, colobus monkeys are covered in white fur that is gradually replaced with black hair matching the adults. The monkeys are distinguished by their black body and white shoulders, backs and beard. The monkeys stand between 18- and 27-inches tall and weigh approximately 12 to 32 pounds. Unlike most primates, the colobus do not have thumbs, although they have long tails that help them navigate through the forest quickly.

Kabibi came to Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2008 as part 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.

Currently, approximately 65 colobus monkeys exist in AZA-accredited facilities around the United States.

December 5, 2008

Disney Welcomes New Calf

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Dec. 5, 2008 -- Disney's Animal Kingdom welcomed the 28th gerenuk calf weighing in at six pounds and approximately two feet tall, after a seven-month gestation.

A gerenuk, which in Somali means "giraffe-necked," is an African antelope with a unique long neck allowing them to eat leaves off the tree versus savannah grass. Unlike other gazelles and most antelopes that graze on grasses, gerenuks often stand erect on their hind legs and stretch their long necks to browse on taller bushes. They are typically found in areas of dry, bushy shrub and because of their arid habitat, they do not need to drink, because they get enough water from the plants they eat. Typical size for an adult gerenuk is approximately three feet at the shoulder with a weight between 80 and 115 pounds.

The female calf, just recently named Presley, was born November 16. Her mother, Tupelo, is six years old and has been at Disney's Animal Kingdom since 2004. Both are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium's Gerenuk Population Management Plan.

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About Animal Kingdom

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