Here’s how Disney World works to keep its animals warm during rare cold weather snaps

lion at animal kingdom
Credit: Joe Burbank/The Orlando Sentinel

Lately, Central Florida has been in experiencing weather patterns for which the state doesn’t usually have to prepare too often.

New Year’s Day saw high temperatures of 82 degrees and a low that night of 70 degrees. Through the middle of January this year, highs in Central Florida hovered in the 70s and 80s, but the last full week of January saw highs only in the 50s and 60s with overnight lows in the 40s and 50s.

A lion sleeps on the savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which provides ways for its residents to find warmth during cold snaps in Florida.

Credit: Joe Burbank/The Orlando Sentinel

If you happen to be in the parks at Walt Disney World during a funky Florida cold snap, you might initially welcome the cooler temperatures as a nice change from the heat during most of the year at the parks. And it’s easy enough for you and me to grab a light jacket, a sweatshirt, or an extra layer of clothing so we’re warm despite the chilly temperatures, but what happens for the animals who are permanent residents at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Thankfully, many of them are already outfitted with fur coats, thanks to Mother Nature. Even so, Disney understands the need to have a plan in place to keep its animals warm if temperatures get cold.

Top 10 Attractions at Disney World's Animal Kingdom

Credit: TripSavvy

“We actually have specific temperature parameters for every species in the park,” said Dr. Scott Terrell, veterinarian and Director of Animal and Science Operations for Walt Disney World. “If it’s below this temperature, the animals either are given access to indoor spaces where we have supplemental heat or in some cases, we make sure that they stay in comfortable quarters and conditions so that they’re not exposed to the elements, the extremes of the elements.”

elephant kilimanjaro safaris

Credit: Rebekah R./Disney Dining

For example, the antelopes that Guests can often see during the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction are free to roam, so long as the temperature outside stays above 40 degrees, according to Dr. Terrell. The team takes into account the age of the animals too. In the case of the antelopes, Disney makes slightly different provisions for baby antelopes and for elderly members of the species, as they may need as may need to come out of the elements even if the temperature is above 40.

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Sable Antelope/Credit: Disney Parks

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“We’ve got the science side, which is the numbers, and then we’ve got the art side,” he said. “We know what it feels like to us and so we want to be focused on them and their comfort.”

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!