22 March 2013

Beneath Some Shady Leaves

Whether you are looking out over the savanna of Jambo House or Kidani Village, there are a vast assortment of spectacular views and remarkable creatures that call Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge home.  Yet, I’m almost certain that many guests are unaware of the most endangered animal to call the resort home, the Radiated Tortoise.

The Radiated Tortoise doesn’t wander the entire savanna freely, but they do have their own private corner of Kidani Village all to themselves. If you make your way down to Sanaa, and then wander down the corridor past the elevator, you’ll find their home sitting just outside one of the windows. Behind the savanna fence you see a small pond, dishes with leafy greens, some scrubby bushes, and, if you are very observant, maybe a Radiated Tortoise or two.

Named for the sunburst pattern of their shells, the Radiated Tortoises only reside wildly in Madagascar, but their numbers are dwindling down to critical numbers. This endangered status is due to the tortoises losing their habitat, being utilized as a food source, and being exploited in the ever expanding exotic pet trafficking. The Radiated Tortoises feed mainly on grasses, but have been known to devour fruit and cactus leaves as well. The can weigh up to thirty-five pounds and grow as large as sixteen inches, and they can also live to be over one hundred years old. There are no hard numbers on how many of the tortoises are still living in the wild, but between their long lives and zoological breeding programs, there is some hope that this declining population can reversed.

These little tortoises may not be as gracious as the giraffes or as ornate as the East African Crowned Cranes that they share the Kidani Village savanna with, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of our attention. So the next time you find yourself waiting for lunch or dinner at Sanaa, or just happen to be wandering the resort, be sure to stop by the home of the Radiated Tortoises, they’ll slowly spread a smile across your face!

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