Around this time each year, veterinary care specialists conduct annual wellness checks on a roost of endangered bats as part of Disney’s commitment to excellent animal care.
The bats, known as Malayan flying foxes, receive complete physical examinations, including blood analysis, vaccination and dental cleaning in front of thousands of Guests who view the procedures from a large, on-stage window into a state-of-the art veterinary hospital. With a wingspan close to six feet, the Malayan flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world and can be seen on exhibit along the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Asia section of the theme park.
“Guests are always fascinated with the amount of care provided to our animals,” said veterinarian Dr. Mark Stetter, director of animal health for Disney’s Animal Programs. “During this time of year, when there’s an increased interest in bats, we have a perfect opportunity to dispel some of the myths about bats and explain the important role bats play in the eco-system.”
Malayan flying foxes are mammals that eat and rest in trees and roost at dawn. As fruit-eating animals, bats assist in pollination and seed dispersal for a great variety of plants that are useful for lumber, food, medicine and other products. Bats are also helpful around the neighborhood where they eat mosquitoes and other bugs.
In addition to receiving annual exams, the male bats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom voluntarily cooperate in their own medical care, making veterinary treatment much easier and safer. Through training, bats willingly allow themselves to be weighed, spread their wings for inspection, or open their mouths for dental evaluations. The intent is to help the animals become comfortable with husbandry practices that help monitor their well-being.
About Malayan Flying Fox
Flying foxes have long, sharp, curved claws on their toes, which allow them to hang effortlessly upside-down in trees. The skin between the fingers is smooth and strong while the rest of the bat’s body is covered with soft fur. As the name suggests, the head resembles that of a small fox because of the small ears, long snout and large eyes.
Unlike most other warm-blooded animals, bats maintain a warm body temperature only when active. While sleeping during the day, their body temperature drops to the temperature of the air around them. In warmer temperatures, bats cool themselves by fanning their wings, licking their chest and wings, and by panting. When flying, legs work in unison with the wings, somewhat like swimming through the air.
- Bats are the only mammals that fly. Other mammals may glide through the air, but bats flap their wings and fly.
- The life span of a bat is about 20 years.
- Females of a colony give birth during a specific season, although the peak varies geographically. Most births occur in May and June.
- Gestation takes about 180 days, and usually a single pup of around 133 grams is born. Twins are rare.
- The young nurse for two to three months. The mothers carry their young for the first few days; then, the bats are left in the roost tree while the mothers forage for food.
- Sexual maturity is attained in 18-24 months.
- For the first few days, the mothers carry their young while they forage for food. Soon, though, the young bats are left behind during these hunts for food.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is responding immediately to needs of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance to protect endangered chimpanzees in Africa.
The Jane Goodall Institute was awarded $5,000 for veterinary supplies to vaccinate chimpanzees and staff against a dangerous measles outbreak at the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chimpanzees are highly susceptible to human diseases, and the high cost of vaccines for 146 chimpanzees and 60 staff members jeopardized the team’s ability to cope with future medical emergencies.
The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) was also awarded $3,000 to assist in the relocation of four orphaned chimpanzees confiscated from smugglers in Sudan. The chimpanzees, Cocoa, Minni, Sarah, and Medina, are all orphans of bushmeat trade and are believed to have been smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are too young to be able to care for themselves but Minni and the others are adjusting well to their new sanctuary home in Uganda. DWCF helped cover the cost of air travel to relocate the chimpanzees from Sudan to Uganda.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Rapid Response Fund provides emergency funding to wildlife and wild places in the aftermath of disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and disease outbreaks. Since the beginning of 2011, DWCF has contributed more than $40,000 to emergency relief efforts worldwide including repairing an educational walkway damaged in a storm in Zimbabwe to allow for continued youth conservation education efforts, and supporting the needs of the International Primatological Society and Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums following the devastating earthquake in Japan. The funding for these emergency grants has been provided through a partnership with Disney’s Friends for Change and iTunes, thanks to several anthems created by stars from the Disney Channel. Coinciding with the premiere of the most recent song by Bridgit Mendler, “We can Change the World,” Disney contributed $250,000 to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to help the planet when it needs it most.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort
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.
- 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.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World
After a four-month rehabilitation at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, an adult male osprey was recently released at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort near the site where he was rescued earlier this summer. An eager group of Walt Disney World Cast Members and resort guests looked on as the bird took to the air for the first time since June.
The osprey was emaciated and listless when he was found on June 17. After receiving emergency care from Disney animal care experts, the raptor was transported to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, Fla. for further treatment. After several months of intensive care, the bird was moved to the Center’s Magic of Flight barn to stretch his wings and complete the rehabilitation process.
Disney sponsored the building of the flight barn in 2001 and has provided ongoing support of the Center. As one of the few structures of its kind in the U.S., the flight barn is used to rehabilitate raptors, such as eagles, hawks, owls and ospreys, so they can ultimately be released back into the wild.
“It’s always nice seeing a bird released back where he belongs,” said EagleWatch Coordinator Lynda White, minutes after watching her most recent patient fly the coop at Lake Dorado. She attributed the successful release to the support of her staff and companies like Walt Disney World. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without Walt Disney World,” she said. “In fact, without Disney, there wouldn’t be an EagleWatch program or a flight barn at all.”
Several weeks prior to the osprey’s release, volunteers from Walt Disney World Resort joined staff at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey to refurbish the flight barn and its surroundings. Volunteers spent the day helping with roof repair, pressure cleaning, replacement of food boards and prey boxes, and re-wrapping very large perches.
“We were excited to pitch in to help spruce up the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, which provides so many services to both community and wildlife,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of Community Relations at Walt Disney World. In addition, Walt Disney World Community Relations gave the center a new pressure washer and sliding ladder for continued upkeep, and Disney’s Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives donated equipment for animal care.
Disney’s on-going support has enabled the flight barn to play a pivotal role in conserving and protecting Central Florida’s wildlife by helping thousands of birds regain their strength and stamina before returning to the wild.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) announced the recipients of the “Disney Conservation Heroes” award for 2010 today during the annual meeting of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The award recognizes citizens around the world for their tireless efforts at the local level to save wildlife, protect habitats and educate the communities around them.
“Conservation efforts around the globe and in our own backyard rely on the local community and direct involvement of dedicated people like our Disney Conservation Heroes,” said Dr. Jackie Ogden, Vice President, Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “These are extraordinary individuals who are passionate about protecting animals and habitats in areas of critical concern.”
This year’s honorees represent conservation programs in six countries and three continents that concentrate on a wide array of animal species from sea turtles to chimpanzees. They were nominated by nonprofit environmental organizations and AZA zoos and aquariums committed to field conservation programs.
Each award recipient and their nominating organization will share a $1,000 award from the DWCF. This year’s recipients include:
Animal care experts from Disney’s Animal Programs returned Thursday from the Florida Panhandle with six Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles – among the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world – and two Green Sea Turtles injured by the spill. The Disney animal care team stands ready to help in the Panhandle as needed and rehabilitation facilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and at Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo & Friends are available for treating turtles and birds impacted by the spill.
“Oil can have a devastating effect on the health of sea turtles, marine mammals and birds,” said Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president for Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives at Disney Parks. “Over the next several months, many of these animals will require intense medical treatment over a prolonged period. We want to be sure that we provide top-notch medical care wherever we can – whether it’s on a beach or in a state-of-the-art veterinary facility. Ultimately, our goal is to re-release these animals so they can once again thrive in the wild of our oceans and coastline.”
In addition, as part of the coordinated response to the spill, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), supported by Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green, has donated $100,000 to help with environmental and animal rescue efforts, including $50,000 to The National Audubon Society for their response in the Gulf. Another $50,000 in grants from the DWCF Rapid Response Fund is being awarded to various grassroots organizations assisting with the cleanup.
As a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, Disney Animal Programs supports the rescue and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year. For this current effort, engineers and water science experts have already converted a backstage area into a temporary rehabilitation facility – setting up salt-water pools capable of housing up to 35 sea turtles.
Since 1986, Disney animal care teams have nursed more than 250 endangered sea turtles back to health. Earlier this summer Disney animal experts began care for seven Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles diagnosed with pneumonia. The turtles were moved to Walt Disney World Resort from facilities in Mississippi to make room for animals injured by the oil spill.
Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund provides annual awards to nonprofit conservation organizations working alongside their peers here and in other countries. A special emergency fund also helps animals and people in times of environmental crisis.
Two ailing Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are on the road to recovery after being brought to Walt Disney World Resort last month from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss. to make room for animals directly impacted by the Gulf oil spill.
The sea turtles, suffering from pneumonia, were flown to Orlando June 25 and placed in the care of Disney animal experts. Kemp’s Ridley turtles are among the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world. The two are being monitored in a special backstage area at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot and will require several months of rehabilitation before they are released back into the wild. Progress so far is favorable.
“They’re doing very well,” said Tom Hopkins, animal operations area director for Walt Disney World Resort. “One still has a touch of pneumonia but is doing much better. The other sea turtle is eating more and beginning to gain weight.”
Animal experts at Walt Disney World Resort have extensive experience rehabilitating sea turtles. Since 1986, Disney animal care teams have nursed more than 250 endangered sea turtles back to health. Most recently, Disney animal experts cared for 15 green sea turtles injured from the cold weather snap that affected Florida earlier this year.
As a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, Disney’s Animal Programs supports the rescue and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year. The team participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other zoological facilities and conservation groups in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees and sea turtles until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats.
Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has announced the 2010 recipients of nearly $1.5 million in grants to protect vulnerable wildlife and ecosystems around the world. The funding enables nonprofit organizations to provide support for more than 45 species across the globe–from protecting the critically endangered Sumatran rhino in Indonesia, to tracking northern jaguars in the foothills of Mexico, to studying the threats of the endangered green sea turtle.
“As part of Disney’s longstanding commitment to the environment, the work supported through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is more important today than ever in helping preserve our planet’s most precious resources,” said Dr. Beth Stevens, senior vice president, Environmental Affairs, The Walt Disney Company. “We are proud to support these organizations that are truly making a difference around the world to aid in the protection of wildlife and the natural environments they depend on to flourish.”
Over the past decade, the DWCF—through support from The Walt Disney Company and Disney Guests—has provided more than $15 million in grants for the study of wildlife, protection of habitats, land management plans, community conservation and education. Along with a focus on support for species and habitat conservation science, the DWCF encourages programs that engage local residents and benefit both human and animal communities.
Below is a highlight of some of this year’s recipients:
- Wildlife Trust: Black Lion Tamarin Conservation through Research and Community Involvement – Wildlife Trust teaches communities about sustainable development alternatives, including tree nurseries and handicrafts, to protect the black lion tamarins living in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.
- Northern Jaguar Project: Northern Jaguar Feline Photo Project - In an effort to reduce jaguar mortality and build conservation alliances with rural landowners, Northern Jaguar Project works directly with local ranch owners in Mexico to monitor and protect the species.
- Save the Elephants: Elephants and Bees – Save the Elephants minimizes human-wildlife conflict by studying and researching innovative strategies to reduce crop-raiding. By using beehives as a deterrent, community crops are left un-touched and families have a new source of income through honey production.
- University of Hawaii: Conserving the Green Sea Turtle in Hawaii - This program advances the understanding of the impact of pollution on endangered green sea turtles. Through further research, conservationists are able to work more effectively with local communities and governments to protect the turtles.
- International Rhino Foundation: Sumatran Rhino Conservation - The Sumatran rhino is considered the most endangered rhino species with numbers declining more than 70 percent in the past two decades. International Rhino Foundation is protecting the species through research and outreach programs in local communities.
To date the DWCF has accomplished the following milestones:
- More than $1 million to primate conservation efforts
- More than $900,000 to protect cats worldwide
- More than $850,000 to elephant conservation
- More than $850,000 to study and save sea turtles
- More than $625,000 to rhino conservation efforts
Since 1998, the DWCF has also awarded more than $575,000 in Rapid Response funds to assist with more than 120 environmental and animal emergencies. In the past year, the DWCF has provided more than $125,000 to support efforts worldwide including veterinary care and vaccinations for animals in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti and rehabilitation efforts for the thousands of sea turtles affected by the winter cold snap in Florida. In 2009 additional support was provided through Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green in which 100 percent of iTunes proceeds of the inspiring program anthem “Send it On” were directed to environmental charities through the DWCF.
Ten year old Asante, a male giraffe, left Disney’s Animal Kingdom earlier this week, headed for Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri. Owned by the San Diego Zoo and loaned out to other zoological parks for breeding purposes, Asante reportedly suffered a broken neck most likely in transit. Upon arrival at the Dickerson Park Zoo, the giraffe had difficulty exiting the trailer and maintaining his balance.
KYTV, Channel 3 in Springfield, MO, has more information on the unfortunate incident including a press release from the Zoo detailing the events that took place.