Animal Kingdom Theme Park is turning ten -- it's been a lucky decade
for Park Guests, and also a lucky one for wildlife, thanks to the
efforts of the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. Established on
Earth Day, April 22, in 1995, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund
(DWCF, for short) has annually awarded money to conservation
projects around the world to assist in preserving the diversity and
splendor of the environment. From sea turtles to elephants, chimps
to king vultures, DWCF funds have helped improve their chances at
Disney's Animal Kingdom Park is a fun place to stay and play -- but
is also much more, with a deep commitment to conservation and
education. Since the Park opened on Earth Day, 1998, Disney's Animal
Kingdom and DWCF have worked hand in hand to make an even more
powerful coalition for wildlife. Park Guests can make donations to
DWCF (and they have, by the thousands) -- but the partnership goes
beyond dollars and cents.
Claire Michael of Disney's Animal Kingdom explains, "A key component
of the Animal Kingdom's... ... mission is to inspire Guests to
conservation action through the experiences they have while in the
Park. The DWCF and worldwide conservation have benefited from the
great opportunity that Disney's Animal Kingdom and other locations
offer Guests to make a difference for wildlife and wild places." She
continues, "The DWCF is built on the passion and commitment of the
Cast Members involved with the program. Whether they share stories
with Guests about the animals protected through the DWCF, sit on the
evaluation team that decides where the funds are best directed, or
proudly pin a DWCF button on a young Guest, every connection and
message is important to the success of this program."
Scott Tidmus, a zoological manager at DAK, adds "I like to think
this one is a two-way street! The Fund has helped support programs
and projects that are of interest to the Cast Members at Disney's
Animal Kingdom, and we're able to assist on a global scale with
projects that have a connection to the species here at Disney's
Animal Kingdom. Without one it is hard for the other to function at
This year, Earth Day is not only the birthday of both the Fund and
the Park -- it's also seeing a name change from the Disney Wildlife
Conservation Fund to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (with
the same convenient initials!), to emphasize The Walt Disney
Company's wide-ranging commitment to the environment and nature.
Disney button collectors will want to note that the DWCF
"conservation hero" buttons are being reissued with a new design to
commemorate the change -- they're available as an extra thank-you to
Park Guests who donate to the fund.
Although the Fund's scope is worldwide and the Park hosts animals
and habitats spanning the globe, one of the proudest projects
underway is one right in the Walt Disney World Resort backyard.
Claire fills us in: "Operation Migration (OM) is dedicated to the
conservation of the world's most endangered crane, the whooping
crane. Founded in 1994, OM started on a journey to determine whether
people could teach birds to migrate using ultralight aircraft.
Working first with Canada geese, the team learned that they could
use this method successfully and the attention they received led to
the making of the film 'Fly Away Home.' Operation Migration was then
asked to take this method and use it to reintroduce captive-born
whooping cranes to the wild, teaching them a migration route from
Wisconsin to Florida. The program has been going since 2000 and OM
can now claim 76 birds released into the Eastern Migratory
Population, five times the number that existed in the early 1940s."
The DWCF has supported this program since 2000 and has helped OM
purchase equipment, a new plane, and safer wings for all the
ultralights. But Disney's Animal Kingdom has chipped in beyond this
financial contribution, according to Claire. "Walt Disney World's
Animal Programs' Cast has volunteered to build the holding pens that
the birds are kept safe in once they arrive, and our veterinary team
performs the health checks on the birds when they finally complete
their long migration. For the past few years, Operation Migration
has also participated in International Migratory Bird Day at
Disney's Animal Kingdom -- bringing a plane and their team to talk
to Guests about their program and their partnership with Disney."
Synergy is a Disney byword, and this teamwork between the Park and
the Conservation Fund, Guest entertainment and education, the
visionary and the implementation, shows why. As Scott notes, "We are
one and the same - we care about wildlife and wild places all over
the world." This Earth Day, there's a lot to celebrate, however you
care to mark the date.