Disney Conservation began with Walt. “He had a long history of caring for wildlife”, Dr. Anne Savage of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park shares with us during a round table discussion on wild animals conservation. We sat in Animal Kingdom’s Tiffin’s Restaurant admiring the art work and artifacts brought back by Disney conservationists during their travels. Dr. Savage took some time to chat with us about Disney’s wildlife efforts, and shared facts about the Animal Kingdom park and Disneynature films. Read on for more details!
I was invited as media to cover this press event. All opinions are my own.
Wild Animals Conservation with Dr. Anne Savage
“Animals in the natural world are just as important to the legacy of the Walt Disney Company as snow White and Mickey Mouse.” – Roy Disney
Connect with Nature at Walt Disney World
Anne shares, “we’re really committed to, not only talking about the work that we’re doing, but we want to inspire the next generation. So we want kids and families that come here to Walt Disney World to really have positive fun experiences with nature here in our park and to get inspired.”
Animal Kingdom Wilderness Explorers Program is inspired by the film “UP” and allows guests (of any age) to be apart of a fact-finding challenge. Guests pick up a free field guide at the beginning of the park, then begin a mission to learn and explore through education stations, while earning more than 30 badges. Dr. Savage mentions, “You can see kids eyes just sort of light up when they’re making some of these discoveries, and that’s what this park all about. ”
“There’s a sense of discovery,” Dr. Savage explains, as you walk through the park. “And there’s lots of little hidden gems that I really encourage you to sort of stop, look and listen because you just never know what you’re going to find.” Adding, “like maybe you’ll smell the Gorillas before you see them. And it’s also really fun to listen to some of the animals. Whether it’s the beautiful bird song that you hear or you might even hear some of our Siamang monkeys or White Cheeked Gibbons. These amazing primates that are over in Asia give these beautiful long calls that are just spectacular. And occasionally you might even hear those Lions roaring, which I’m telling you when you hear that sometimes first thing in the morning it’s just mind blowing.”
Dr. Savage also mentioned that the parks are working with local artisans networks to sell their products at the parks, as a way to help them earn an income. She showed us her latest bag, a purse made entirely of recycled plastic bags crotched by women in Columbia. She also mentioned the program is working with locals in Brazil, particularly with their loofah sponges.
Disneynature and Conservation Fund
Dr. Savage shares, “I’m really excited about the commitment that the Disney Conservation Fund and our company has made to protecting wild life. It has given away over $65 million to protect wild life around the world. It’s protected more than 100 species in 34 Asian countries!”
Through the Disney Conservation Fund they provide funding to leading non-profit organizations that are working to protect animals in the wild. Dr. Savage mentions, “it’s working, not only to protect species, but to protect habitat because we know that animals need places to live. But in addition to that we also do a lot of work with communities because a lot of times these places that we’re trying to protect are right at the edges where people live.”
Adding, “Where we’re really featuring work are on 10 at-risk species, and we have made a commitment to work long term on these species so that we can really help leading NGO’s reverse the decline. So we work with the NGO’s to create a strategic plan of really addressing what are the key threats to these species and then how are we going to help solve them.
Sea Turtle Conservation Program at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
In Florida, particularly sea turtles are really important. More sea turtles nest in Florida than anywhere else in the world. So Disney created a resort near the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – a 21 mile stretch of beach, and they help with special projects to protect and help the sea turtles. Dr. Savage explains, “what makes us different is that we engage all of the guests staying at the resort and all the visitors that are on the 7 miles stretch of beach that we’re working on to care about Sea Turtles. So you can come join us at 7:00 in the morning and look at a Sea Turtle Nest that was laid the night before or even see a nest that had just hatched, which is really fun.”
The resort actually has a trained dog, named Dory, who helps locate sea turtle nests. Dr. Savage mentioned, “And she is trained, not only to find eggs, but freshly laid eggs. She’s trained to find the mucus that covers a freshly laid egg. So that way she doesn’t alert on a nest that been incubating for a couple of months, and she is spot on. It’s just amazing!”
How can we get involved?
If you’re inspired after visiting one of Disney’s parks, she suggests visiting the Disneynature website for educator guides. Dr. Savage also suggested, “think about contributing financially to either the Disney Conservation Fund or to the leading conservation organizations that are working to help protect wildlife.” She also recommended looking at your global footprint and how you can lessen your impact on the planet, like recycling or only purchasing sustainable seafood.
Born in China
While everyone doesn’t have the time (or budget) to explore the world, Disneynature is dedicated to connect you with nature through their films. When discussing the Born in China film, Dr. Savage said, “Being a Scientist and working with animals in the wild I know how difficult it is just to even get a glimpse of some of these animals – particularly when you look at the snow Leopard footage.” Adding, “Being able to share these sort of intimate moments with nature at such a level because it’s these type of moments that can really change your life.”
She spoke about the Siberian Cranes, which are feature in Born in China saying, “Siberian Cranes are really just this amazing species. There’s just a few hundred of them left in the wild. And when you talk about a bird that migrates over long distances this bird migrates from Russia into China. ” They are only found in one area in Russia, on the Tundra, which was not officially protected. Dr. Savage explains, “but since we’ve been helping the International Crane Foundation with this program the Russians are very interested now in turning this into a National Park.”
Disneynature’s Born in China focuses on three animal families; pandas, golden monkeys, and snow leopards. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the film twice, and it’s quite eye opening. It’s a great family film. Get it on Blu-ray combo pack August 29th!