LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is celebrating Earth Week, ahead of Earth Day on Thursday, with character experiences as well as new activities and food.
Disney World is home to more than 5,000 animals of more than 300 species across its parks and its resorts – from Animal Kingdom to “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” aquarium at Epcot and the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The company employs a team of hundreds to care for the animals.
Scott Terrell, director of animal and science operations at Disney World, spoke with WFLA.com about new arrivals to Animal Kingdom and what special events the park has going on during Earth Week.
The most recent baby animal arrival to Animal Kingdom happened about two weeks ago with a baby mandrill monkey, who is on display with her mother during Disney’s Kilimanjaro Safari ride.
“If you’re trying to visualize what a mandrill is, think about Rafiki, the magical shaman from the Lion King. So a very colorful monkey. Baby Ivy was born to mom…Hazel. Baby Ivy was about a pound when she was born, which is normal for a mandrill,” Terrell explained.
Animal Kingdom also welcomed an endangered white rhino named “Ranger” in October. Terrell said the “baby” is now a strapping 500 pounds, but was born only at 89 to 90 pounds.
“The great thing about Ranger is, being a white rhino – a really incredibly endangered species – every birth we have in that species is really important for the planet. So it’s just another thing to celebrate…as we go into Earth Day and Earth Week,” Terrell said.
To feed babies this big, and all other animals across the resort, Terrell explained the staff prepares over 10,000 pounds of food for their animals per day.
It’s a dedicated team of nutritionists, veterinarians, scientists to track pregnancy hormones and, of course, zookeepers.
“So it really is a team effort, it’s a bunch of people who are really passionate, not only about the animals that we have at Animal Kingdom or at the Seas, but the animals that we all have in the wild and that’s why we’re so focused on protecting them,” Terrell said.
Animal Kingdom will feature special experiences for Disney fans throughout the week. Exclusive merchandise and specialty cupcakes will be available for purchase.
Terrell specifically mentioned Rafiki’s Planet Watch for some excitement for all ages. At the location, park guests can learn to draw a character from a Disney animator.
“You learn to draw [for example] Dumbo from an animator. [Then] you’ll get to meet…Stella, one of my baby animals here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” he said. “Then you get to learn how Disney is saving elephants in the wild. So you get the whole package. You get the Disney magic, you get the magic from the park and then you get the magic from the Disney company truly saving species in the wild.”
Terrell explained that Walt Disney World is celebrating the magic of nature every single day of the year but cast members and staff are increasing their efforts during Earth Week.
“What I hope that our guests know when they come to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, not only are they having a fantastic time but they’re also helping us make the world a better place for people and animals,” Terrell said. “And to really know that visiting us at Disney’s Animal Kingdom you are directly helping the animals, not only at the park but out in the wild, and it’s such a special experience.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is open throughout the week, but reservations for tickets are required.