ORLANDO, Fla. – As Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary, the theme park’s team continues its mission to preserve Disney’s legacy of conserving animals and the environment.
For many years, Disney hosted public service announcements for the National Wildlife Federation, where he promoted the concept of conservation.
“You probably heard people talk about conservation,” Disney said in one of the spots, which was released in 1961. “Well, conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.”
“He was the original conservationist, you know. He believed in protecting wildlife and wild places,” said Dr. Scott Terrell, Director of Animal and Science Operations for Walt Disney World.
Terrell spoke of his passion for animals and the environment in the middle of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
“I don’t even really think about it as a responsibility,” he said. “I just think it is what we do.”
Behind the scenes at Animal Kingdom, Terrell said experts are working fast to preserve and re-populate threatened and endangered species, like the black rhino and elephant.
“Every one of those babies makes a difference for the world. It really and truly does, and I get to see the joy in the guests on safari as they see those babies,” he said. “I get to see the joy in my team who takes care of those babies and those moms, and that combination is everything.”
Terrell said that work stretches beyond the gates of the theme parks.
At Disney’s Wilderness Preserve near Kissimmee, more animals and plants are protected by the Nature Conservancy on more than 11,000 acres.
Walt Disney World also works to preserve the environment by reducing its carbon footprint.
A “shining” example of their efforts – a solar farm -- spans 270 acres.
Currently, Disney estimates the farm generates enough electricity to power two of its theme parks, and more solar farms are in development.
Walt Disney World has also reduced its use of plastics, opting for more eco-friendly options with their shopping bags and eliminating the use of plastic straws in drinks.
The company said its use of reclaimed water has saved more than 300 million gallons of water over the last eight years.
“(Disney) would ask questions. He was incredibly curious about how to have native plants that represented the best of California and the best of Florida,” said Collin O’Mara.
O’Mara is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Fund – the organization Disney worked with so many years ago on the public service announcements.
“If you look at the sustainability work that the company has done, the philanthropic work that the company has done, the work they’ve done at Animal Kingdom and at Epcot, I think it really does kind of showcase how he thought that kind of great entertainment could also be incredibly nature informed and in harmony with good sustainability practices,” he said.