Top 10 Animals You Don’t Want to Miss at Animal Kingdom

Top 10 Animals You Don’t Want to Miss at Animal Kingdom

By Cassie

In 1990 the first discussions were held about a new animal park that would become Animal Kingdom. The project was announced mid-year 1995, broke ground on it summer of 1995, and the 500-acre park opened to the public April 2008. Animal Kingdom today is home to more than 1,700 animals, 250 species, and is an important voice for conservation, animal care, education and research.  There are a number of rare animal encounters here and well worth the price of a ticket.  You can meet everything from farm animals to extinct dinosaur skeletons. The animals are part of your learning here but also part of the entertainment you will only find at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Below is a short list of ten special animals you can encounter when you visit Animal Kingdom.

10. Hippopotamus (Kilimanjaro Safari Ride)-these animals love water. They will choose to walk along the bottom of a river rather than swim across it. They will spend up to 16 hours a day under the surface of a river or lake. They can hold their breath under water for up to five minutes. Their eyes and nostrils are located high on their heads which makes it easy for them to stay mostly submerged but still breath and listen. They secrete a substance that protects their skin from sunburn and germs. They spend the day in the water then at sunset emerge to walk as many as 6 miles a night, in a single file line, looking for plants to eat.

9. Giraffe (Kilimanjaro Safari Ride)-these are the tallest mammals on earth.  They have an insatiable appetite and live to be about 25 years. They stand between 14 and 19 feet tall. They can run about 35-mph but only over short distances. They are more comfortable running at 10-mph for longer periods of time. They like to stay in small groups. Thanks to their long necks they are able to reach the treetops where other animals cannot.  Their favorite food is acacias buds that grow at the top of the tree. I was surprised to see how long, 21”, the giraffe’s tongue is.  There is a relative of the giraffe on this safari called the Okapi, which have an 18” tongue that works the same way. These shy animals were also known as the forest zebra because of its black and white markings on its hindquarters and legs. Okapi are able to eat many kinds of plants including those that are poisonous to other animals and humans. Both the Giraffe and Okapi use their necks to defend themselves in a fight.

8. Giant Anteater (Oasis)-these toothless mammals can lap up 35,000 ants or termites daily. They do have sharp claws however that gains them access to large ant hills or termite mounds. Once the ant hill is open he sticks his long snout and superfast tongue to work inside.  He can flick his tongue up to 160 times a minute! They are also careful not to destroy the hill because he will come back another day to eat some more. They have very poor eyesight but a great sense of smell. An anteater’s tongue can extend more than 2 feet. Their tales are almost as long as their head and body length.  If an anteater is threatened they will rest on their tails and lash out with their 4 inch long claws. Even though they have no teeth they have been known to fight off big cats like the puma or jaguar.

7. Arapawa (Rafiki’s Planet Watch)-is a rare breed of New Zealand Goat, are critically close to extinction, but there are a couple at Rafiki’s Planet Watch for us to see. The most endearing one is named “Wilma”. She is the oldest of all the goats there. These are smaller than normal farm milking goats and the coat colors come in a variety and have distinctly patterned faces. Wilma is black and white in color. She has horns and is sporting a nice beard. Her coat is fluffy. She has an endearing nature and bonds with her caretakers. These goats are valued for their milk, meat and skin. They are self-reliant in their native island off the coast of New Zealand. You will see this tender goat gently tap her head to those who challenge her food supply no matter what their size is.  She is often seen standing atop the play structure guarding hay and slowly enjoying her meal. She especially likes her chin gently rubbed.

6. Rhinoceros (Kilimanjaro Safari Ride)-they like to cover themselves in mud because that thick skin is sensitive to sunburn and insect bites. He looks like he is covered in heavy armor, but he can run 30 to 40mph. A group of rhinos is called a “crash”. The small birds often seen sitting on a rhino removes ticks from the rhino’s hide and make a loud sound when feeling threatened that also alerts the rhino of danger. These animals have been known to stare down the Safari ride vehicles!

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5. Komodo Dragon (Maharajah Jungle Trek)-this 10 foot long, 300 pound lizard is the heaviest on Earth. They will attack and eat almost anything despite its size.  He waits patiently until his prey walks by then he pounces with his powerful legs and claws the victim and bites with shark-line teeth. If his prey manages to struggle free, he is rare, and still won’t live long.  The saliva of this nasty reptile is poisonous with over 50 strains of bacteria. The dragon simply follows this prey until the animal dies, usually within 24 hours from the blood poisoning. The Komodo Dragon can reach speeds of 11-mph in short bursts.

4. African Lion (Kilimanjaro Safari Ride)-these are the only big cats that live in a group. These cats sleep away most of the day, so it is sometimes difficult, if not impossible to spot them up on the rocks. There is a decline of lions in the wild so their protection status is considered “vulnerable”. The animals that the females hunt are often faster than they are so they rely on teamwork to bring down dinner.

3. African Elephant (Kilimanjaro Safari Ride)-these are the largest land animal on earth. They and their ears are larger than the Asian Elephants. They like to shower themselves by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it all over, followed by a nice layer of dust.  That trunk is used for a lot of other tasks such as eating, breathing, trumpeting, grabbing their food, all while using 100,000 muscles in the trunk alone.  The guide tells us they have a 22-month pregnancy and this is only the second mammal to have their offspring stay at home into their teen years. (Humans are #1 in that category.) They have a life expectancy of 70 years.

2. Western Lowland Gorilla (Pangani Forest Exploration Trail)-These animals are endangered and prefer to live in heavy rainforests. They like to live in groups called a troop. The troop is usually led by the dominant adult male called a silverback. Although I have seen the alpha male here at Animal Kingdom pounding his chest and roaring loudly as a show of his physical power, he is considered non-aggressive and remains calm unless provoked. Gorillas eat plant roots, shoots, fruit, bark, pulp and wild celery. A baby gorilla is born weighing only 4 pounds. The baby clutches to its mother and rides her back from 4 months of age until two or three years old. In captivity gorillas have displayed an ability to learn simple sign language. Gorillas are hunted for their meat.

1. Tiger (Maharajah Jungle Trek)-this is the largest of the wild cats weighing up to 720 pounds in its six foot body.  Tigers usually hunt alone creeping close to its prey than sprinting to it.  If it is a larger animal the tiger will attack its throat and a smaller animal will have its neck broken. Tigers prefer a quick kill and then will eat off the carcass for days.  He eats until he is satisfied then covers the carcass with leaves or dirt, then comes back and does the same thing. The Tiger is the only one of the big cats that enjoys water.  Tigers have been overhunted for their beautiful fur, some medicinal qualities, and they are losing their habitat due to farming and logging. No two tigers have the same stripes! The female tiger can give birth to one to six cubs at a time and raised them on her own. At six months old a cub is taught to hunt. At one year they are capable of killing their prey but usually stay with their mother until at least two years old. You can face down a Tiger through a sheet of plexiglass on this trek.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.