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SPECIAL: What Happens to the Animals While Disney World is Closed?

During Walt Disney World closures, such as during hurricanes and now because of COVID-19, one question that gets asked a lot is, “Who is taking care of the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?” Well, Disney has released an update on their care of the animals during the temporary closure and also shared some exciting baby animal news! Catch all the details below.





 

Here are all the details from Disney Cast Member Dr. Mark Penning:

I wanted to share an update on our beloved wildlife. Although Walt Disney World Resort is temporarily closed, Disney’s Animal Care team is continuing to provide top-notch care to the thousands of animals who roam our savanna and seas. We are diligently following state and federal guidelines to ensure the health and safety of our dedicated team.

Check out a video that shares more about the amazing work our cast members are doing to ensure our animals continue to thrive at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

 

[Welcome] the newest addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a baby prehensile-tailed porcupine.

Credit: Disney

The baby, known as a porcupette, was born to mom, Peri, on Feb. 25. If you’ve seen the One Day at Disney documentary on Disney+, you may remember seeing Peri participate in an ultrasound with Disney veterinarian Dr. Natalie. And after a long-awaited arrival, the team is delighted to welcome this cutie to the Disney family.  Here’s a closer look:

 

Cast members like Walt Disney World Veterinarian Dr. Natalie provide continual care for Peri – from annual exams to pregnancy check-ups, the birth of her porcupette, and of course, post-partum care.

Porcupettes are covered in a fine red fur coat, but they’re also born with their tiny quills underneath, which begin to harden hours after birth. Those quills are actually what helped the team determine the baby’s gender. And guess what? It’s a girl!

Coming to this conclusion required science and more than just a neonatal exam from the veterinary team. Prehensile-tailed porcupines have internal sex organs, so to determine the baby’s gender, the team actually had to send some of her tiny quills off to a lab for DNA testing.

Credit: Disney

As with all of our animals, there are plenty of big hearts caring for this little mother-daughter duo. Peri continues to thrive in her role as a mother, which is part of why she was chosen to breed through the Species Survival Plan (SSP). This program is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and ensures responsible breeding and genetic diversity of thousands of species of animals.

With so many families at home together right now, we look forward to sharing more stories and insights about our animals and amazing cast who are caring for them.  If you don’t already do so, please follow my Instagram @DrMarkAtDisney, where we’ll share #BetterTogether learning opportunities soon.

RELATED ARTICLE: Kilimanjaro Safaris – 8 Fun Facts You May Not Know

By Jenn S

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park where guests will board a safari truck which takes them into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve to view free-roaming animals. Every safari is different, and guests may see hippos, giraffes, baboons, elephants, lions and more during this approximately 27-minute ride. Have your camera at the ready and hang on because it can get a little bumpy! Here are 8 fun facts about the Kilimanjaro Safaris Attraction.





 

8 – Walt’s Vision Comes to Life

When Walt Disney was designing the original concept for the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, he wanted to use real animals. This idea was quickly scrapped in favor of audio-animatronics versions of the animals due to the many factors involving the use of live animals. Decades later when Imagineers began the concepts for Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, they knew they would finally have an opportunity to bring Walt’s vision and love of animals to life with Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Mom and Baby Elephant at Animal Kingdom

7 – Size

Kilimanjaro Safaris is the largest attraction at Walt Disney World. So large in fact that the entire Magic Kingdom could fit inside the attraction.

6 – Hidden Mickey

If you are looking for hidden Mickey’s, take a look at the island that the flamingos congregate on. This will be just past the elephants and located on the left-hand side of the truck. The island is shaped like Mickey if you look at it from above.

Flamingo Island Hidden Mickey

5 – Storyline Has Changed from Original Concept

The storyline of the attraction led guests on an adventure to stop poachers who had trespassed onto the Harambe Wildlife Preserve and rescue “Little Red,” a baby elephant. Before the park opened, the attraction included a scene where “Big Red” the mother elephant, killed by poachers could be seen. This was removed from the attraction before opening due to negative responses during tests.  The storyline to save Little Red remained, with guests finding her rescued at the end of the attraction. Eventually, the storyline was removed, and the focus of the attraction is the animals themselves and a conservation message.





 

4 – Yes, They Are Real Trucks

The safari vehicles are GMC trucks that have been converted to run on propane.  These trucks are actual free moving vehicles, and they do not run on a track, the driver is responsible for your safety as well as the safety of the animals while out on safari. This is why from time to time your ride vehicle may stop unexpectedly. If an animal is on the ride path, the driver must wait for the animal to clear the area before proceeding. This causes all trucks behind this vehicle to stop as they must remain at a safe distance from each other.  At the end of the day, the trucks are driven off the ride and parked in a lot where they can be serviced before the next day.

Giraffes at Animal Kingdom

3 – The Landscape Isn’t Always Real

While you are on Kilimanjaro Safaris, the landscape looks incredibly real. You may forget for a moment that you are actually in central Florida. The flat-top Acacia trees that are common on the African Savannah are actually just Southern Live Oak trees that they trim to look like Acacias. The animals do not seem to mind though. And the Baobab trees, which have massive trunks and look as if they are upside down as their branches are leafless and resemble roots are not real trees. The ones on the attraction are made of concrete; however, you can see a real one near the Tusker House restaurant in Harambe Village before you enter the ride.

2 – Animals Are Real, But Are Contained

While the animals you see on Kilimanjaro Safaris appear to be free roaming, they are contained to their specific ecosystem by camouflaged walls, water barriers, and cattle guard chains on the ground. The lions are kept in their location by an 18-foot deep and 21-foot wide moat that separates them from the ride vehicles. Disney has done an incredible job of hiding many of these features, so it appears the animal habitats are connected. Animal keepers place food and toys in areas where the animals will be seen from the ride path, this way guests have the best chance of viewing the animals while on safari.

1 – Animals Get Time to Rest

The animals do not stay on the attraction overnight. Each night they return to their barn located behind the scenes to rest and receive veterinary care.  The Animal Keeper team has trained each animal to return to the barn when it hears a specific sound, some returning to a tambourine, a triangle or a bell, among many other sounds.  The animals also do not go out on the safari every day as they rotate to allow each animal proper time for rest, care, and enrichment.

The Lion Sleep Tonight

Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park offers many different animal viewing attractions and locations, but one of the best attractions is the Kilimanjaro Safaris. While many guests make this the first stop of the day while visiting the park, animals are active and can be seen throughout the day. This popular attraction can have a long wait time so be sure to choose it as one of your FastPass+ attractions.  If you’ve been on Kilimanjaro Safari, what animal was your favorite?



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About Chad & Cindy Nykamp

After years of multiple Walt Disney World vacations, Cindy and Chad's dream of living in Orlando came true in 2010. After friends and family made them their go-to-people for Walt Disney World advice, Cindy and Chad launched DisneyLists.com in August 2015 to share their knowledge and love of Disney. Chad and Cindy have been Disney World Annual Passholders for years, DVC members, together have raced more than 70 runDisney races, and particularly love cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. Chad and Cindy also regularly represent DisneyLists.com at Walt Disney World media events. While attending these events, they get an insiders view of all the new things that have come to Walt Disney World. These experiences have helped them gain knowledge and expertise they happily pass on to their followers. They still can't believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!