“Landscapes of great wonder and beauty lie under our feet and all around us. They are discovered in tunnels in the ground, the heart of flowers, the hollows of trees, fresh-water ponds, seaweed jungles between tides, and even drops of water.
Life in these hidden worlds is more startling in reality than anything we can imagine. How could this earth of ours, which is only a speck in the heavens, have so much variety of life, so many curious and exciting creatures?”
– Walt Disney
Walt Disney always had an appreciation for nature, and the preservation of it. Walt also acquired a love for animals, which he demonstrated through the animated films he produced, including Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, Bambi, Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians, and more.
On April 22, 1998, there is no question that Walt Disney was smiling from above as he watched Walt Disney World Resort open it’s gates to it’s newest addition and park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This park is now celebrating it’s 17th anniversary today, and is beloved by animal lovers and all alike. The icon of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life, which is a 145-foot tall artificial structure that is adorned with over 330 animal carvings. This tree commemorates all living things in the great “Circle of Life,” and includes a lion, deer, eagle, monkey, pelican, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, bear, tortoise, lemur, scorpion, dolphin, and more, to show the intertwine of Earth’s many amazing creatures.
The largest Disney theme park in the world, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is based on the idea of animal conservation by Walt Disney himself. The park represents Walt’s dedication to “conservation, and is committed to animal care, education, and research,” according to the Walt Disney World Resort webpage. In honor of Walt, The Walt Disney Company purchased over 3,500 acres of wetlands in the Florida Everglades to be set aside for conservation to create a natural preserve. This Disney Wilderness Preserve has since expanded to 11,500 acres, and has become a “national model for sustainable development and state-of-the-art conservation management.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is divided into six adventurous themed lands, with the seventh being built: Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, DinoLand, and soon to be Pandora: The Land of Avatar. Each land has it’s own unique theme and animal habitats.
Oasis, the park’s main entrance, is the home to several animal habitats, including various birds, ducks, iguanas, and anteaters.
Discovery Island is where the iconic Tree of Life can be found, and is the central hub of the park, with various surrounding animal habitats. Discovery Island is also home to the 4D film “It’s Tough to Be a Bug,” featuring Flik from A Bug’s Life.
Harambe is the fictional African village based in the Africa land, containing the main attraction Kilimanjaro Safari, where you are taken through in a safari vehicle and get up close and personal with some of Africa’s wild animals. These African animals that roam freely on a savannah include African elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, gazelles, zebras, hippos, giraffes, and the kings of the jungle themselves, lions (think Lion King animals.) You can also view the Festival of the Lion King extravaganza here.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is especially made for kid’s of all ages to enjoy, and includes a petting zoo with goats and sheep. This place is all about conservation, with a conservation station that gives a glimpse inside of the animal care facilities.
Asia is where you can find the two thrill rides: Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids. Aside from these rides, one can find various wildlife, including various birds, Komodo dragons, and more (you may also see the Yeti in Asia!)
Last but not least, DinoLand U.S.A. is inspired by the animals of the past, which would be dinosaurs. The ride DINOSAUR is present here, and that takes you on a wild adventure through time to the Late Cretaceous Period. There are also family friendly carnival-like rides here, all within the dino theme. One can also sit and watch Finding Nemo: The Musical here too.
The latest addition to be added into Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a seventh land themed after the successful movie Avatar (I’m not too happy about this, but oh well.)
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is truly a magical place where one can make a difference with conservation while enjoying the lands of the park. One can donate throughout the park during their visit to The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and be rewarded with a collectable button.
The dedication to the park on April 22, 1998 by Michael D. Eisner, former Disney CEO, went as follows: “Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.”