Imparting relevant information without appearing to be force feeding the information down the throats of guests is one of the key components to edutainment. The information has to be entertaining, discreet, and able to stay with a guest long after the experience has ended. In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with so much information to be related to the guests, much of it sought out by the guests themselves, the manners in which the stories of the animals and the conservation message are passed on is crucial. Luckily, Disney has created a multitude of ways in which to convey their messages over the years.Many species of animals are found along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, each with its own unique personality, physical traits, habits, and habitat. Rather than merely place a sign detailing this information at each of the viewing areas, creative documentation has been crafted. By creating a simple back story of the Pangani Forest being home to a Conservation School, all the tools of an educator are opened to sharing vital information. Chalkboards filled with pertinent data to the edge of the slate, school documents, “lectures” given by guides along the trails, museum displays, and even newspaper clippings all build upon the idea of a school setting while communicating significant facts.
Near the okapi viewing area alone several of these techniques, such as chalkboards and displays, are employed. Perhaps my favorite technique, and one where great amounts of intriguing details can be found, that is utilized in this section of the trail is the letter from the Ituri Okapi Project. Located in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and a part of the Ituri Wildlife Preserve, the letter details the okapis primary habitat, diet, and the behaviors associated with birth and calf raising, all under the guise of an information exchange between two organizations that have recently completed a transfer of three okapis. The wealth of information in that one piece of paper is outstanding, but must be sought out to be truly appreciated.
It just goes to show, on the trails of Pangani, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, and even life as a whole, never take anything for granted. The more curious you are, and the closer you look, the more rich your experiences will be.