Ryan P. Wilson
You aren’t misreading that photograph, it does indeed say that there was a lion examination at Rafiki’s Planet Watch last Wednesday. This is a common occurrence at the Conservation Station, the examination not the lions, and an experience that most guests overlook. Citing that it would take too much time to go out there or that there are no walkways to get there or to another land, guests offer thinly veiled excuses for not exploring the area, mostly because they don’t actually know what they are missing.
The Cast Members of Conservation Station do a terrific job of not only explaining the various activities being performed by professionals there, everything from medical treatments to tracking and even population development, and digging beneath the surface of what can be seen, by describing the facilities, the career paths that brought people into the station, efforts to help injured or endangered animal populations, and many other missions of the facility. Aside from the Cast Members there is enough signage to give guests working knowledge of how the various programs work. There are even handouts, computer programs, and other knowledgeable Cast Members working at Eco Web to help guests bring the message home and where they can help in their local communities.
There is a drawback to visiting Conservation Station during an animal examination, operation, or treatment, space. While the large picture windows are terrific, and the Cast Members deftly maneuver children to the front of the group, people are shoving for position to see and the crowd size becomes immense. This is a terrific problem to have! People are showing an interest, and that interest could potentially transform into conservation action, but it makes viewing such procedures tricky and uncomfortable for everyone involved. The large overhead monitors help for guests not able to see the window, but the hallway still becomes quite congested. While I doubt the same group size can be found at frog exams, it would be wonderful to see more space for viewing. Perhaps move some monitors and speakers out into the main space or build a small theater where procedures, current and previous, could be observed by the curious.
No matter how crowded the small hall gets, or what the answer is to viewing, the time I spend at Rafiki’s Planet Watch is always some of the most interesting and informative moments I have on a trip. Walt Disney World has a great resource here, and they should be shouting about the activities and experiences available at Conservation Station on a given day to guests from the second they walk through the gates!