Major Milestones At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Filed in: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – From creatures wild and whimsical to Broadway-caliber shows, from unparalleled adventures and experiences to award-winning conservation efforts, from exotic lands to cuisine that celebrates a global park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has marked many unforgettable years. And the best is yet to come!

Here’s a look back at a few of the milestone dates in the evolution of Disney’s adventure park at Walt Disney World Resort:

June 20, 1995                        Plans for “Wild Animal Kingdom” announced

August 4, 1995                      Groundbreaking for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

December 5, 1995                 The first tree, an authentic African acacia xanthophloea, is planted

June 12, 1996                        Miles the giraffe is the first animal to arrive

October 5, 1997                     A baby kudu is the first animal to be born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

November 4, 1997                 Hope, a 14-year-old gorilla, gives birth to a male named Jabari

April 22, 1998 (Earth Day)    Grand Opening for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

January 1999                         Accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums (formerly American Zoo and Aquarium Association)

March 1, 1999                        Grand Opening of Asia, which includes Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek

July 1999                                Tarzan Rocks! debuts

May 2000                                Reproduction of Dino-Sue, the rare 65 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex, on display in DinoLand U.S.A.

October 2000                         Rafiki’s Planet Watch premieres

December 2000                     Safari Village renamed Discovery Island

June 4, 2001                          Colobus Monkey Habitat Opens on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (formerly Pangani Forest Trail)

October 2001                         Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade premieres

November 2001                     First phase of Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama opens with TriceraTop Spin attraction and midway games

April 22, 2003                        Plans announced for Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

May, 2005                               Lucky the Dinosaur, the first Audio-Animatronics figure capable of walking and moving independently, makes special appearances

April 7, 2006                          Expedition Everest opens

April 2006                              Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund achieves $10 million milestone since its 1995 creation

January 2007                         Grand opening for “Finding Nemo – the Musical”

April 22, 2007                        Inaugural “Party for the Planet” event takes place on Earth Day

February 16, 2008                 Paws in the Park event. Disney’s Animal Kingdom/Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives raises more than $13,000 for SPCA of Central Florida

April 22, 2008                        Jane Goodall Global Youth Summit visits the park on Earth Day

January 16, 2011                   Wild Africa Trek opens

June 1, 2013                          Wilderness Explorers program debuts to guests

June 1, 2014                          Festival of the Lion King debuts in its new home, the brand-new Harambe Theatre.

May 2015                                Harambe Market opens.

May 27, 2016                          Tiffins restaurant and Nomad Lounge open, nighttime experiences debut – Harambe Wildlife Parti, Discovery Island Carnivale, Tree of Life Awakenings and nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris

May 28, 2016                          The Jungle Book – Alive with Magic live show debuts

December 2016                     Lion-tailed Macaques debut

February 17, 2017                 Rivers of Light debuts

May 27, 2017                          Pandora – the World of Avatar opens

August 2017                          Sumatran tiger cubs, Jeda and Anala, are born,

January 2017                         Augustus, a baby hippo, is born

March, 2018                           Contributions to Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund total $120 million since 1995

April 22, 2018                        20th Anniversary milestone marked with Party for the Planet Earth Day Celebration, premiere of UP! A Great Bird Adventure and debut of the Pandora Utility Suit

September 25, 2020              A new docu-series, “The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” debuts on Disney+. The eight-part National Geographic series gives viewers an all-access pass to explore the magic of nature.

October 1, 2022                      “Disney KiteTails” debuts at the Discovery River Amphitheater