Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview with a Keeper from Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

From private balconies and public viewing areas (even from the pool), Guests at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge can observe 20-plus species of African animals. Keeper Kerry Kennedy has been at the lodge since before it opened in April 2001. She talked to us about the best parts of her job (early-morning savanna runs) and the worst (Well, no one really enjoys picking up poop).

Disney Magazine: I was in my room for about two hours before coming down to talk with you, and I think I checked off every animal on the field guide. Is that possible?
Kennedy: Well, we have three savannas and we stagger the animals through them starting mid-morning. So if you time it right, sure.

DM:Where do the animals go at night?
K:They stay out all night. We call them in to a barn around midday so they can eat and we can get a look at them. They're all back out by mid-afternoon.

DM: What are the absolute best places and times to see the most animals at once?
K: Arusha Rock, right when the sun starts to set. The animals walk right toward the viewing area where the guests are standing. Also, any of the viewing places are good early in the morning, just as it's getting light, which is when we go to put out enrichment.

DM: What is enrichment?
K: Anything that enriches the environment for the animals and the guests. Often it gets animals to mimic their behavior in the wild. We hang browse in the trees, for instance.

DM: Browse?
K: Stuff to browse on. The horticulture staff grows a variety of things: acacia, mulberry vine, banana leaves.

DM: The stuff in the trees must work for the giraffes, but what about the no-necks?
K: We have all kinds of camouflaged feeders. Near the pool, there's one for browse that looks like a fallen tree. The bongo (a kind of antelope) love it, and it brings them really close to the guests in the viewing area.

DM: Do you have a favorite species?
K: I love the giraffes. They're more intelligent than people give them credit for. They come running as soon as we give them their audio cue.

DM: What's an audio cue?
K: Each savanna has a different sound [to call in the animals]. It's any sound the animal is trained to respond to.

DM: What advice do you have for Guests who want to see the animals behaving wildly?
K: The Guests here are really guests of the animals. This is their space. If you're quiet, just sitting back observing, you're gonna see the best animal behavior.

DM: You must see some pretty wild human behavior, too -- I mean watching the humans watching the animals?
K:Oh, yes. You should know that we can see you when you're standing on your balcony in your underwear!

DM:Any other advice for Guests?
K:Talk to the savanna guides, all of whom come from different parts of Africa. They have great stories from home, and a few have even worked for safari outfits in their country. 

From Disney Insider 2002

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