From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: David Roark
April is Earth Month, a celebration that holds a special place in the hearts of Disney cast members, particularly since Disney’s Animal Kingdom debuted on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. This month, we’ll be sharing great stories from the wildest Walt Disney World Resort theme park … starting today with some of my all-time favorite animal photos.
As a Disney photographer for nearly 40 years, I’ve been privileged to take photographs of the wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom since the park’s very beginning. I’m in awe of the magic of nature and my favorite subject is baby animals – there’s nothing quite like watching a zebra foal or a giraffe calf take their first hesitant steps, or seeing a mother gorilla hold her infant in her arms. Case in point …
I took these photos last May only a few hours after a mother gorilla, Kashata, gave birth to her baby, Grace. I just love these tender moments as mom and baby bond. In the top image, check out how her little arm cuddles mom and they both have a totally contented, peaceful look on their faces.
What speaks to me in the second photo is Kashata’s huge hand carefully embracing Grace. The soft lighting and monochromatic background really help the pair stand out, too. And I think all parents can relate to both the joy and relief of having a newborn snuggle into your chest as you both drift off to sleep. It’s hard to believe it’s almost Grace’s first birthday, and I can’t wait to go back to Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and see how much she’s grown.
This next one is an example of fortune smiling down on me. I was using a 600mm, super-telephoto lens to capture these 4-month-old baby Sumatran tigers, Anala and Jeda, at play back in late 2017. With that long a lens, it’s easy to miss some of the minor details in a scene when you are actually taking the photos. The cubs were about 50 yards away when I snapped this picture of them playing together in the shade next to their mom, Sohni.
I knew I had something good, but I didn’t realize just how good until I returned to my office and looked at the images on a big screen. That’s when I saw … one of the cubs had the other’s tail in its mouth! I laughed out loud when I saw this picture up close, and it still brings me joy to this day.
I figure we can all use a little joy in our lives right now, so I hope you like these photos as much as I do. And keep checking the Disney Parks Blog during Earth Month as we share more special moments from Disney’s Animal Kingdom!