That’s the conclusion of a team of researchers from Save the Elephants, Oxford University and Disney’s Animal Kingdom who have discovered a new alarm call made by elephants in response to the threat of bees. Working with herds of elephants in Kenya, scientists theorize that this unique rumble may warn other herd members of the bees’ presence, prompting pachyderm retreats even when no are bees present.
“The purpose behind these studies is to find a novel way of keeping elephants from raiding the crops of local communities, and thereby reducing “human-elephant conflict,” according to Joseph Soltis, Ph.D., research scientist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “As human populations expand, they move into elephant territory and elephants and people end up sharing the same space. One of the consequences is that elephants start raiding crops, which can end up harming both people and elephants.”
Using an array of microphones hidden in the bush, scientists first recorded the vocal reaction of the elephants to bees and then replayed these elephant rumblings without bees present. When elephants heard this recording through wireless speakers, they behaved the same as they did when bees were present; they shook their heads, threw dust in the air, and ran away from the area. These very low-frequency “rumble” vocalizations are apparently different from other rumbles, leading researchers to believe that that elephants may use their voices to communicate threats to each other.
Just in time for Earth Day, Disney Parks and Resorts released its 2009 Conservation Report earlier today. The report, which highlights various programs, activities and educational initiatives Disney Conservation has parktaken over the past year, can be found here.
A few days ago, we revealed some of the new Earth Day limited-time-only merchandise from the Disney Store featuring the Alien from Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3 with the tag line SAVE PLANET EARTH. Today, DisneyStore.com launched its Earth Day Boutique and although you won’t find any of that merchandise online, you will find dozens of other eco-friendly merchandise including Alien tees, a tree planting kit (pictured), a Muppets water bottle and re-useable tote and more eco-friendly merchandise.
Other items of special interest in the store include merchandise supporting the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and a special re-useable tote from Make-A-Wish in honor of its first annual World Wish Day on April 29 with proceeds going to charity.
To see all of the items now available for purchase, click the special link below.
On May 18, Dr. Beth Stevens, Senior Vice President of Environmental Affairs for The Walt Disney Company, will be one of four women recognized by the National Audubon Society in a ceremony in New York City as one of the leading women in the field of American conservation.
Dr. Stevens will be awarded the Rachel Carson Award named for Rachel Carson, whose landmark book Silent Spring opened the world’s eyes to the damage inflicted by the indiscriminate use of pesticides such as DDT. Before Congress, Rachel Carson’s testimony called for an environmental regulatory department which came to life several years later with the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since its inception, the award has raised over $1,000,000 in support of Audubon’s important campaign to protect the Long Island Sound and Audubon’s Women in Conservation Program which includes a website to help educate women on important environmental issues and the ongoing efforts that address them and an internship program for girls and young women hoping to gain exposure to the environmental non-profit world.
Dr. Stevens earned her bachelor’s degree in Zoology at Duke University and her Ph.D. in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the Disney Parks and Resort division to help open Disney’s Animal Kingdom as Conservation and Science Director and then General Manager for Disney’s Animal Programs. She was soon promoted to Vice President of the park as well as Disney’s Animal Programs. She has also served as President and Chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as well as serving on the boards of the Save the Tiger Fund and the International Rhino Foundation.
Other recipients of the award in 2010 are: actress and activist Isabella Rossellini; superintendent of Yellowstone National Park Suzanne Lewis; and Fernanda Kellogg, president of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) is proud to support International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to provide veterinary care and vaccinations for animals in the wake of a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. IFAW and the World Society for the Protection of Animals are jointly leading the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH), working with more than a dozen of the world’s leading animal protection organizations to aid as many animals as possible.
Funding will provide the ARCH team with medical supplies and equip a “mobile clinic” that is delivering emergency care for injured animals and administering vaccinations to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as rabies. Click here to watch a short video about IFAW’s relief efforts.
The DWCF provided $20,000 to the emergency effort through Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green and the iTunes initiative, in which 100 percent of the proceeds from the download of the inspiring anthem “Send it On” benefitted environmental charities through the DWCF.
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.
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.”
Breaking up is hard to do – especially before Valentine’s Day. But for a team of animal care experts from Disney’s Animal Programs, saying goodbye often means a new beginning for the wildlife they’ve taken under their wing.
During the next few weeks, animal managers, veterinarians and behaviorists will wish farewell to dozens of endangered animals that will return to their native Florida habitat after spending weeks, months or even years with members of the Disney team. The animals range from a tiny, 11-ounce endangered rodent to a recently rehabilitated four-pound sea turtle to an eight-foot, 828-pound manatee. Whether flippers or feet, the common thread is that each one has received top-notch care as a reflection of Disney’s commitment to animal conservation and wildlife rehabilitation.
CRACKING THE CODE ON WOODRAT LOVE
Most recently, the animal care team collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Lowry Park Zoo on the first-ever reintroduction of 14 Key Largo woodrats to the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Florida. The woodrats were bred at both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa as part of a recovery plan to augment the existing population found only in Key Largo. Scientists estimate that this native species has dwindled to about 500 after years of habitat loss, drought and the invasion of non-native animal species, such as the Burmese python.
“Although small in size, the Key Largo woodrat plays a larger role in the circle of life,” according to Anne Savage, senior conservation biologist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “Through diligent study, we may be able to link these tiny rodents to the distribution of essential sources of food for other animals. That activity could facilitate the growth of fungus, trees and other fauna. That’s an important reason to be concerned about saving them.”
Prior to their release at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the Key Largo woodrats were placed in individual enclosures with nest structures designed and built by refuge volunteers. Supplemental food was provided for nearly a week while conservation biologists observed the animals in their new environment and felt comfortable removing the animals’ protective enclosures. Each animal has been fitted with radio-collared transmitter which will help scientists track their movements once released.
Breeding this elusive species was a challenge since scientists had very little information about social structure, reproductive biology or ecology. Through diligent research, Disney animal experts studied the behavior of this nocturnal animal and found ways to successfully breed 30 of the native species. Since June 2006, 18 litters have been born in Disney’s colony with litter size ranging from one to three pups.
Aside from scientific discovery, researchers develop special attachments to many of the Key Largo woodrats. “It feels similar to sending children off to college,” said Savage. “As scientists, we hope the woodrats have cultivated the skills to survive on their own and they will be successful in their natural habitat. It’s exciting to be part of this conservation effort and see them move on to their next chapter.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Sept. 23, 2009 – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recently recognized Disney’s Animal Programs for conservation efforts to help protect the endangered Key Largo woodrat. During the AZA’s annual conference, the team received the Edward H. Bean Significant Achievement Award, which recognizes programs that contribute to the reproductive success of a species.
Since 2005, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in developing and implementing a recovery plan for the Key Largo woodrat, which is threatened by habitat loss along with an invasion of non-native animal species, such as the Burmese python.
During the very early days of the conservation program, animal researchers quickly learned that breeding this elusive species was a challenge since there was very little information about social structure, reproductive biology, or ecology. The Key Largo woodrats share little in common with the average city rat and are difficult to breed, having only about two litters per year of one to three pups.
Researchers also discovered that the nocturnal creatures also spend a lot of time building nests. “In the wild, Key Largo woodrats build stick nests that can be up to three feet tall,” said Andy Daneault, assistant curator of ectotherms for Disney’s Animal Programs.
Through diligent research, Disney animal experts found ways to successfully breed this nocturnal animal and have successfully bred nearly 30 Key Largo woodrats. The goal is to eventually reintroduce these captive-born woodrats to Key Largo to help increase the wild population.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Aug. 5, 2009 – Led by Disney’s Animal Programs, an international coalition of veterinarians from conservation groups, zoos, universities and private industry have returned from Africa after effectively sterilizing seven bull elephants in Swaziland’s Big Game Parks.
As a result of this effort, Swaziland wildlife officials will be able to better manage the elephant population in wildlife parks and reserves over the next decade.
Elephant overpopulation in wildlife parks and reserves in Swaziland and other southern Africa countries is a growing concern that can have devastating effects on the natural habitat as well as other animal species that live there. Wildlife officials in several countries are considering culling elephants in order to control the population growth. One of the ways to address this concern is with an innovative population management tool developed by an international veterinary team to help save habitat without harming elephants.
“Surgical vasectomy helps reduce elephant birth rates, while maintaining normal hormone levels and common elephant social behaviors,” according to veterinarian Dr. Mark Stetter, director of Animal Health at Disney’s Animal Programs. ”With this procedure, we’re pleased to help wildlife officials in Africa balance the need to provide quality elephant care with an eye toward sustaining the ecosystem for other native animals.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., July 13, 2009 — Uganda’s first white rhino born in 27 years has a family tree with Disney roots.
First-time mother Nande, a 10-year-old female white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, gave birth June 24 to a healthy male calf at the Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda after a 16-month gestation period.
“We are thrilled to contribute to the sustainment of this critical species in Uganda,” said Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President of Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We are joining with the Government of Uganda and Rhino Fund Uganda in celebrating this milestone birth, which represents a significant accomplishment for wildlife conservation.”
Nande is one of two white rhinos transferred in 2006 as part of the first-ever reintroduction of white rhinos from the United States to Africa. She was joined by Hasani, also born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, to help re-establish a white rhino population that has been extinct in Uganda since 1982 as a casualty of civil unrest in the region. There are an estimated 11,000 white rhinos remaining worldwide, with 190 in North American zoos.
Walt Disney World’s commitment to conservation and rhinos goes beyond this first-ever rhino transfer. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported more than $250,000 in rhino protection and research projects in partnership with non-profit organizations throughout the world. For more information on the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund visit www.disney.com/conservation.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and a link to helping animals in their native habitats.