While Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is notoriously “notazoo,” it is home to many spectacular animals, including majestic African elephants.
Happy World Elephant Day (2 days late)!
The African elephant is the largest land animal on Earth. It can be found in over 37 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, thriving in a variety of habitats from marshy forests to arid deserts. Male “bull” elephants never stop growing! They can weigh more than 14,000 pounds and stand 11 feet tall, while the females come in a bit smaller at half that weight (7,700 pounds) and 8 feet tall. The average life span is about 30 years, but they have been known to live 50 years or longer.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Guests can view a herd of African elephants on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, an 18-minute excursion into the 110-acre Harambe Wildlife Preserve. Open-air safari vehicles take passengers on a trek through wild African savanna, where they encounter 34 different species of exotic wildlife in natural habitats like rocky outcroppings, shady forests, and open plains. Elephants have been a favorite animal of mine since I was a little girl. In fact, we lived on a farm back then, and I begged my parents to get me an elephant to keep in the barn! They never did (*sigh*), so I have to enjoy them from afar. You can imagine my joy earlier this year when baby Stella joined the herd outdoors in their enclosure!
Three major threats face the African elephant in the wild: poaching, loss of habitat, and human-elephant conflict.
Despite an international ban on ivory in 1989, black-market demand for it is still high, and sadly, thousands of elephants are slaughtered each year just so their tusks can be made into jewelry and other artifacts. Habitat destruction feeds into human-elephant conflict. As you can imagine, animals this size eat a lot! Elephants are vegetarians who graze their way across the land. If their natural food sources are depleted, they venture into farmland, destroying crops, and therefore the livelihood of the farmers, who, in turn, destroy the animals so they will not cause such destruction again.
Disney is involved in a number of conservation efforts to help African elephants. Check out a couple of them below:
- In Kenya, scientists from Disney’s Animal Kingdom park collaborated with the Disney Conservation Fund and Save the Elephants, pulling from research that elephants are afraid of African honey bees to build beehive fences to protect local farms. These low-cost, eco-friendly fences protect both crops and elephants and provide a new source of income for impoverished communities.
- Disney’s collaboration with Save the Elephants also helped develop alarm collars with GPS and motion-sensor technology to track elephants—tested first at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and now in use in Africa. These collars provide an early-warning system for ground forces in Kenya defending the animals and can also be used to locate a wild elephant in distress and to provide long-term data on elephant behaviors.
African elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park / keeping elephants out of extinction
On the extinction charts, the African elephant is considered vulnerable. As you can see from the chart below, that means its populations are in decline and their habitat is being reduced, giving them a projected extinction probability of 10% within 100 years.
The Walt Disney Company is committed to the future of our planet and the preservation of its infinitely rich variety of people, places, plants and wildlife–including the African elephant. What are some things you can do to help?
- Pledge not to purchase products made of ivory. It is estimated that each day 96 elephants are killed for their tusks. Do not encourage this cruel industry!
- An adult bull elephant can produce 300 pounds of waste each day. That’s a lot of poop! However, it is being converted into paper products. Support elephant conservation by purchasing wildlife-friendly elephant paper.
- If possible, on your next visit to Walt Disney World Resort, add the 60-minute Caring for Giants elephant to your Park plans! For just $30 per person (in addition to park admission), you can meet dedicated animal specialists who care for the elephants and learn all about the care and wellness of the herd. You’ll be able to observe the elephants from approximately 80 to 100 feet away, closer than you would during other in-park experiences, and a portion of the proceeds gets donated to the Disney Conservation Fund.
- Explore the websites below to learn many creative ways you can help make a real difference in the care and preservation of these beautiful creatures: 96 Elephants Backstage Tales Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) Disneynature Disney’s Animal Kingdom park Savor the Savanna Wildlife Conservation Society
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Life Science, Biology, Zoology, Conservation
SKILL LEVEL: All
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