From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: Dr. Mark Penning
Earlier this year, we were delighted to share how we’ve been working to harness pollinator power at the new solar facility near Walt Disney World Resort. The pollinator work continues today — on National Butterfly and Hummingbird Day — and a new chapter is about to emerge as we aim to help the “kings” of the butterfly kingdom.
Monarch butterflies are known for their beauty and brilliant orange and black wings. Found across North America, the insects can migrate thousands of miles as they pollinate many types of wildflowers. Their presence notes a healthy ecosystem, but sadly, the North American monarch butterfly population is in steep decline due to habitat loss, climate change and pesticides.
Disney Conservation Programs Manager Dr. Lily Maynard and her team have dedicated the last few years to combatting these declining populations. Most days, you can find Dr. Lily’s team out applying their research in the field, studying the behavior of local pollinators at one of the many pollinator gardens across Walt Disney World Resort.
I am proud to announce all their hard work is paying off. Monarch butterflies were just designated a SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction species by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), thanks in part to the efforts of Dr. Lily.
For the next three years, Dr. Lily will serve as the chair of a committee of zoological leaders focused on improving the odds for monarchs, and growing the population to serve as an ambassador for all other pollinator species. AZA SAFE combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA members and partners to save animals from extinction.
This is just the latest in Disney’s efforts to protect butterflies. Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has provided more than $2 million in support of 26 projects across North America working to save butterflies. Together with the University of Florida, Disney has helped conservation efforts of 12 butterfly species in Florida and 31 species in California, for a total of 43 species. These conservation efforts have included reintroducing more than 2,000 Atala butterflies, over 1,000 federally endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies back into the wild, and assisting with efforts to re-establish the federally endangered Miami blue butterfly in the Florida Keys. As a founding member of the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network, Disney Conservation cast members have documented more than 70 species of butterflies on Walt Disney World property in Florida.
We’re looking forward to sharing more with you as the work takes flight to save our monarch friends.