Some guests on board Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park got a special surprise look at the circle of life when they witnessed the birth of a baby zebra while on the ride at Walt Disney World. The 65-pound Hartmann’s mountain zebra foal was born to mother, Heidi, on May 17 and the baby boy could be seen taking his first steps within minutes of his birth.
“Mom Heidi is a parenting pro — staying close to her baby to bond and nurse,” Dr. Mark Penning, vice president, animals, science and environment for Disney Parks, said in a Disney Parks Blog post welcoming the new arrival and sharing this video of his first steps.
Penning went on to explain the importance of bonding to help the newborn imprint on his mother’s scent and memorize her markings in order to tell her apart from the herd. The little foal and his mother will reunite with his big sister Asha and the rest of the zebra herd on the savanna in the coming weeks, Penning said.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park has been giving us a regular fix of adorable baby animals to welcome lately, thanks in part to the Species Survival Plan program. Overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the program helps to “ensure the responsible breeding of endangered species,” Scott Terrell, director of animal and science operations at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, explained in a Disney Parks Blog post.
A baby giraffe and an endangered white rhino were both born last fall as part of the program and have both made their way to the savanna, where guests aboard the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride can see the little ones roaming with their herds.
Three types of zebras, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, Grevy’s zebra and plains zebra, all call Walt Disney World home. In addition to the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can also spot zebras at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a nearby resort where wildlife like giraffes, zebras and ostriches can even be seen from guest room balconies.
Zebras, white rhinos and giraffes are just a few of the animals featured in the National Geographic docu-series, “The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.” The eight-part series, narrated by Josh Gad, streams on Disney+ and takes viewers behind the scenes to tell stories about the care, conservation and Walt Disney Imagineering involved in giving a home to more than 5,000 animals and 300 species at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT.
Congratulations to the proud zebra parents and caretakers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!