LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giraffes, zebras and wildebeests have a colorful, diverse group of neighbors on the African savanna of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. They’re joined by a species of longhorn cattle so ancient it is depicted in Egyptian pyramids, a turkey-sized bird that walks on its tiptoes and a territorial hoofed creature called a blesbok.
Altogether, approximately 200 mammals and birds populate the nearly 45-acre area planted to replicate an African savanna. Guests of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge can view the creatures from their resort balconies or from several viewing points — including a landscaped rock outcropping — the Arusha Rock kopje — 24 hours a day.
A working wildlife reserve, the 74-acre Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers opportunities for guests to meet with African cultural representatives and the animal care team. Those Disney cast members are equipped to offer animal spotting tips, conservation information and background on the animals.
"There’s no place like this in the world, where you can have a room with a savanna view and 24-hour viewing of animals from your balcony," says Greg Peccie, lodge curator. "This really feels like an immersion into Africa."
Among the many species seen on the savanna:
- Ankole-Watusi cattle An ancient breed once known as the Egyptian Longhorn, it is a medium-sized member of the cattle family with very long horns and a long tail pictured in 6,000-year-old Egyptian pyramids.
- Blesbok The blesbok is a hoofed mammal with ridged lyre-shaped horns, found in a protected area of South Africa. It has a short, glossy reddish or purplish coat and a white blaze on its forehead divided by a dark bar between its eyes.
- Thomson’s gazelle Also referred to as Tommies, these herbivores are known for their endurance that allows them to escape swift predators such as cheetahs or lions. The small creatures have rich tan skin with black racing stripes on their sides, and males have curved ringed horns.
- White-bearded wildebeest Known for traveling in large herds, the wildebeest is a large, high-shouldered antelope with a broad muzzle, an ox-like head and cow-like horns. It can go five days without water and mainly eats grasses and succulent plants. At night, the wildebeest will often sleep in rows, which offer the security of a group while allowing each individual a quick getaway in case of danger.
- Bongo Certain populations of this solitary forest dweller have been designated endangered or near threatened. Bright or dark chestnut red, both the male and female bongo have horns that spiral into a complete twist. The bongo can also be seen throughout the evening, browsing in the moonlight.
All animals inhabiting the savanna return periodically to an on-site animal care facility for feeding and routine care. Many of the species graze, as well, on savanna plantings that are part of their everyday diet and are continually replenished by horticulturists.
Animals populating the savanna of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge either originated at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park or arrived from other accredited zoological facilities, Peccie says. Nighttime viewing of the animals "that just adds to the whole African experience" will occur with the help of artificial lighting that mimics soft moonglow, he says. "We hope people will leave with a greater appreciation for wildlife."
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
(Subject to change)
Vulturine guinea fowl
Helmeted guinea fowl
East African crown crane
Eastern white pelicans