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Local Children + Stingrays = Fun Eco Camp at Disney’s Castaway Cay

One of the best ways to learn to care about the environment in your community is to take a “deep dive” into understanding local species and their natural habitats. That’s exactly what children from the Abaco Islands did recently when they visited Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, to learn about stingrays and conservation.

Children from the Abaco Islands exploring ways to learn to care about the environment at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay

 

The children were participants in summer eco camps hosted by Friends of the Environment, a local non-profit focused on environmental education. With the support of Disney Cruise Line, Disney’s Animal Programs, and Science and Environment, local children participated in the week-long camp, where they learned about the ecosystems in their own community. The students then made their way to Castaway Cay where the education continued. While on the island, children were able to join stingrays in the water to learn about these fascinating creatures. They were also able to explore the island’s nature trails from the observation tower and engage in an overview with the onsite Disney’s Animal Programs animal care expert to learn about the research being done on Castaway Cay to protect marine habitats in The Bahamas.

Hosting these children on Castaway Cay is only one example of the community outreach work Disney Cruise Line does in The Bahamas and other ports of call. We’ll continue to share similar stories in the coming months so be sure to check back.

What activities have you done this summer to better understand local species and natural habitats in your area?

Wildlife Wednesdays: Ready, Set, Go! Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Sea turtle nesting season (May to October) is a hubbub of activity at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and the past couple of weeks have been no exception. In today’s blog post, I’m excited to share news on Cinderella the sea turtle’s nest and this year’s Tour de Turtles, as well as an amazing video of hatchlings emerging from their nest and heading to the sea.

Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

The race is on in Tour de Turtles. Last Saturday morning, more than 500 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests cheered as two loggerhead sea turtles, who had laid their eggs on the beach the night before, returned to the sea. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released on the beach near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual Tour de Turtles event. The first turtle to swim the farthest will be declared the winner. The turtles are named after characters in the Disney•Pixar film “Finding Nemo.” Peach is sponsored byDisney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and Pearl is sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Friends for Change.

Researchers from Disney’s Animal Programs and the Sea Turtle Conservancy will track the sea turtles using satellite telemetry as they travel from their nesting beach to various feeding grounds. Using this technology, scientists learn about sea turtles’ habits at sea and the different migratory patterns of each species. This knowledge helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation actions and policies. Guests can find out about this research and follow the tracks of the turtles when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org.

Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Readers of the Disney Parks Blog will remember that a June 6 blog post told the story of Cinderella the sea turtle, who came up on the beach very late one night (after midnight, hence the name Cinderella) near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to lay her eggs. I promised to provide an update on the nest to report on how many hatchlings emerged. Cinderella’s nest is one of hundreds that Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor during sea turtle nesting season at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Cast members are marking new sea turtle nests daily, as well as monitoring existing nests until they hatch. Well, it was quite a summer for Cinderella’s nest. In late May, Tropical Storm Beryl washed over the nest. In early June, a large ghost crab took up residence a few feet from the nest, but, fortunately, didn’t do any digging at the nest site. In late June, Tropical Storm Debby washed over the nest. Sea turtle nests are quite vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, as they are likely to be inundated with water, which can harm the eggs. Cast members monitoring Cinderella’s nest in early July found a leatherback sea turtle hatchling that had been caught up in fishing line washed up on the beach. They freed the hatchling from the fishing line and released it at night, when it was cooler and the hatchling would be safer from predators.

Cinderella the sea turtle

Finally, in late July, the eggs in Cinderella’s nest hatched. We inventoried the nest, and she had a total of 121 eggs in the nest — 55 hatched and 66 didn’t. Why the low number of hatchlings? Well, Tropical Storm Debby seemed to have had an effect on her nest; she laid her nest in an area that received a lot of wave action over her nest, but still those 55 hatchlings made it to the ocean. That same day we inventoried another nest that was laid in the sand above Cinderella’s nest, and it had 123 eggs, of which 118 hatched and only 5 didn’t. Here is some video footage taken with special night vision equipment of hatchlings emerging from the nest. As for the hatchlings, you can see that we were very careful not to interfere with their ability to reach the ocean safely. We are excited to share this video of one of nature’s most amazing wonders. Enjoy!

 

Did you know?

  • In “Finding Nemo,” “Peach” is a starfish and “Pearl” is an octopus.
  • In the Tour de Turtles, each turtle acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Peach is raising awareness about the threat of light pollution on the beach. Since sea turtle hatchlings rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean, many become disoriented and drawn off-course by artificial light sources. Pearl is raising awareness about the threat of entanglement. Turtles can become tangled in trash and nets, and drown.
  • Each year, approximately 50,000 female sea turtles lay their eggs on Florida beaches, making the state’s beaches one of the most important nesting areas in the world. Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth and have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years. In the United States, as much as 90 percent of sea turtle nesting occurs in Florida, which serves as a primary nesting site for several species of endangered and threatened sea turtles.
  • Guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest. And, of course, people can help turtles year-round by taking action to reduce waste, save water and keep it clean, and reduce emissions.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Bats Receive Special Treatment for Halloween

Animal Kingdom BatsAs Halloween approaches, several creatures of the night are getting a series of treats from a team of medical experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Around this time each year, veterinary care specialists conduct annual wellness checks on a roost of endangered bats as part of Disney’s commitment to excellent animal care.

The bats, known as Malayan flying foxes, receive complete physical examinations, including blood analysis, vaccination and dental cleaning in front of thousands of Guests who view the procedures from a large, on-stage window into a state-of-the art veterinary hospital. With a wingspan close to six feet, the Malayan flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world and can be seen on exhibit along the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Asia section of the theme park.

“Guests are always fascinated with the amount of care provided to our animals,” said veterinarian Dr. Mark Stetter, director of animal health for Disney’s Animal Programs. “During this time of year, when there’s an increased interest in bats, we have a perfect opportunity to dispel some of the myths about bats and explain the important role bats play in the eco-system.”

Malayan flying foxes are mammals that eat and rest in trees and roost at dawn. As fruit-eating animals, bats assist in pollination and seed dispersal for a great variety of plants that are useful for lumber, food, medicine and other products. Bats are also helpful around the neighborhood where they eat mosquitoes and other bugs.

In addition to receiving annual exams, the male bats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom voluntarily cooperate in their own medical care, making veterinary treatment much easier and safer. Through training, bats willingly allow themselves to be weighed, spread their wings for inspection, or open their mouths for dental evaluations. The intent is to help the animals become comfortable with husbandry practices that help monitor their well-being.

About Malayan Flying Fox

Flying foxes have long, sharp, curved claws on their toes, which allow them to hang effortlessly upside-down in trees. The skin between the fingers is smooth and strong while the rest of the bat’s body is covered with soft fur. As the name suggests, the head resembles that of a small fox because of the small ears, long snout and large eyes.

Unlike most other warm-blooded animals, bats maintain a warm body temperature only when active. While sleeping during the day, their body temperature drops to the temperature of the air around them. In warmer temperatures, bats cool themselves by fanning their wings, licking their chest and wings, and by panting. When flying, legs work in unison with the wings, somewhat like swimming through the air.

Bat Facts:

  • Bats are the only mammals that fly. Other mammals may glide through the air, but bats flap their wings and fly.
  • The life span of a bat is about 20 years.
  • Females of a colony give birth during a specific season, although the peak varies geographically. Most births occur in May and June.
  • Gestation takes about 180 days, and usually a single pup of around 133 grams is born. Twins are rare.
  • The young nurse for two to three months. The mothers carry their young for the first few days; then, the bats are left in the roost tree while the mothers forage for food.
  • Sexual maturity is attained in 18-24 months.
  • For the first few days, the mothers carry their young while they forage for food. Soon, though, the young bats are left behind during these hunts for food.

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