As an outsider, Walt Disney World Resort may appear to be an overgrown theme park for families to get up close and personal with their favourite characters, wear Mickey ears and ride rollercoasters.
As an outsider who was given the opportunity to see and experience everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) the park has to offer, I learned that it is so much more.
During a six-day press trip to Orlando, a group of media representatives we taken to explore each of the different parks. During our visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, we were taken on a safari. As a South African who has spent enough time in the bush, I was a bit sceptical; I expected a lot of fences and not many animals. I was pleasantly surprised.
The vehicles were large and comfortable, our tour guide and driver was knowledgeable and we were able to see the animals, which are well cared for and have plenty of space, without the hindrance of barriers and fences. Yes, Disney might be one of the biggest brands, but it turns out looking after the planet is fairly high on the priority list. It’s a small world after all, and Walt Disney himself said, “[Conservation] is a matter that concerns all of us.”
Here are 10 facts about The Walt Disney Company’s conservation efforts:
1. Through support from guests and The Walt Disney Company, since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed more than $75 million to save wildlife and protect the planet in 120 countries and inspired millions of people to take action for nature in their communities.
2. Nearly 1/3 of Walt Disney World Resort (more than 8,000 acres!) has been permanently set aside for wildlife conservation, providing a home for animals like gopher tortoises, nearly 70 butterfly species, and purple martins—small songbirds that travel to Walt Disney World Resort to raise their young before flying more than 6,000 miles to the Brazilian rainforest and back!
3. Each day at Walt Disney World resorts, housekeepers collect used soaps and amenities that are donated to Clean the World, which recycles and donates them to help people in need both locally and around the world. In 2018, more than 13 tons were recycled and diverted from landfills.
4. Ten rhinos, including three born in Uganda where white rhinos were previously extinct, have been born as a result of a rhino breeding programme at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
5. More than 300 endangered sea turtles have been nursed back to health and returned to the wild at The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion at Epcot, which houses a 5.7-million-gallon saltwater aquarium where guests can learn about marine animals.
6. By 2019, The Walt Disney Company will eliminate single-use plastic straws and stirrers at locations around the globe. Put a different way, that’s a reduction of 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers annually!
7. About 80% of Walt Disney World Resort’s irrigation requirements are met with reclaimed water, which saves over two billion gallons of drinking water—enough to fill Spaceship Earth, the sphere in Future World at Epcot, roughly 129 times!
8. The elephants in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park were among the first to wear high-tech tracking collars that are now used in parks in Africa to prevent poaching, locate wild elephants in distress, and help scientists plan for the long-term survival of the species.
9. More than 180 professionals from Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment—from educators to veterinarians—have contributed expertise to advance conservation efforts globally.
10. The Disney Conservation Fund has also recognized more than 150 Conservation Heroes for their efforts to protect wildlife living alongside their communities in 48 countries.