Walt Disney World was built as a magical attraction park for children to see princes and princesses. Their dreams come true and eyes light up seeing these storybook characters coming to life with rides and attractions to entertain their every waking dream. The newest park, the Animal Kingdom, opened on April 22, 1998 providing children with the Jungle Book characters, African safaris, Mount Everest and more. The “Land”, Africa, has authentic street vendors and a Kilimanjaro Safari with animal life from Africa. While this may be just another imagineered experience, these animals are there to educate children about wildlife preservation.
When the Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 the safari ride storyline consisted of “Big Red” and “Little Red”, a mother and baby elephant that were separated. The passengers on the safari expedition were looking for the mother elephant while seeing various wildlife, endangered species too, along the way. The safari was changed because the ending scene was the mother elephant slaughtered by poachers. Since the experience was too intense the Imagineers put an informational video in the beginning about the Harambe Wildlife Reservation and why it is important for the African people to monitor the the grounds and save the animal from poachers. Children and adults are informed about elephants and rhinos being poached for their ivory tusks, cheetahs and lions slaughtered for their fur, and birds massacred for their beaks. This is not the magical world of Disney that is usually seen, but it spread a message about the horrors that occur throughout the world.
Poaching has increased exponentially since 1989. According to the ICCF Foundation “the increase in wildlife product pricing has been met by the increased involvement of more organized, better funded, and better armed criminal and terrorist networks, and even militias, compounding the challenges faced by those charged with protecting the wildlife.” Customs Officials are paid a sum of money to import illegal animals into other countries. Africa and Asia have the highest rate of these imports. This is due to government not providing the protection necessary for this cause and lacks the proper law enforcement necessary to minimize the criminal poaching efforts. The ICCF also states that approximately 450 elephants were slaughtered in Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park which represents 10% of the countries remaining elephant population and the price for these animal possessions has increased 1000 times making rhino horn powder over $30,000.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom utilized video footage and a realistic safari experience to spread the word about poaching. These criminal acts go mostly unnoticed by the general population. For how many people enter Disney hopefully some people become aware of the actual matter at hand instead of just the amazing and magical time.
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West, D., West, D., Bell, T., Bell, T., Thompson, S. and Thompson, S. (2014). DIS Unplugged Disney Podcast – The DIS Unplugged podcast is a weekly roundtable discussion that covers all aspects of planning a Disney vacation, including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, and Universal Studios. [online] Disunplugged.com. Available at: http://www.disunplugged.com [Accessed 17 Jun. 2014].