There are times in our life when we are blessed to have the opportunity to speak with people that are sooo passionate about something that you can almost feel it spilling out of their pores. Last week, I had the honor of attending a once in a lifetime press trip to Walt Disney World to promote the new Disneynature movie, Monkey Kingdom (which is now in theaters and FABulous!). It was there that I had the chance to meet this guy……..
That my friends is Mr. Greg Peccie, the Animal Operations Manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge! Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is an adventure in it’s own, taking families into the heart of Africa with a private savannah full of African animals and a resort featuring African decor, food, and much much more! What a great place he gets to go to everyday!
All the bells and whistles of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge can be found online, and there are some amazing reviews of this resort……but that’s not why we are here. We are getting to the heart of the matter because that’s where the passion lies. I had an amazing sit down lunch with Mr.Peccie at Sanaa restaurant (one of the many restaurants at the DAKL), and listened to him pour his heart out to us mom bloggers about his love not only for his career but also for the animals and the lodge. I learned soooo many interesting facts about the animals and the lodge, soo of course I had to share with you! I present to you………………..
1- It’s a Zoo!
Did you know that the Animal Kingdom Lodge is an actual zoo? Well it is. There are 4 beautiful Savannas totaling 46 acres. These Savannas are home to over 30 different species. With over 250 free roaming animals there is always something to see.
2- The Keepers
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge employs 25 specially trained keepers. These keepers provide 24 hour care for the animals on site.
3- Staff Members are African
Much of the staff here are on a 12 month visa from Africa. From hospitality to the actual safari guides. Speaking with the guides is an awesome experience. They are happy to teach about their African culture and their knowledge and passion for the animals is unmatched.
4- You don’t need to be a guest
Yes, you read that right. You don’t need to be a guest to experience what this amazing facility has to offer. Feel free to visit one of their many themed restaurants and dine on authentic African cuisine. Roam the halls. Which are full of African artifacts and staff willing to share their knowledge. Or, visit the Savannas. There are lookout points all over the lodge where you can view the animals. If you go at night there are guides with night vision goggles which you can use.
5- Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra
There are only 50 Hartmann’s Zebras currently in zoos in the US. 9 of them are right here at DAKL. Due to habitat loss, hunting, and competition for resources this species is on the IUCN “red list” for endangered species. There are only 8,000-10,000 left in the wild. Disney’s animal programs team is actively involved in the Hartmann’s mountain zebra Species Survival Plan.
Animal Kingdom’s species survival team specializes in aiding endangered species renewal. They even help other zoos breed for release into the wild. While they love the animals they have on-site, their goal is to help the growth of these species in the wild.
7- Animals free roam
Well, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But, here at DAKL they actually do. They spend 24 hours a day on the Savannas. They are not put up in enclosures at night like some other facilities. They are allowed to live as natural a life as possible. The only time they are not on the Savannas is when the dedicated staff is giving them their regular medical checkups to make sure they are healthy and happy.
8- Peccie loves the hooved animals
While speaking with Peccie he informed us that his favorite animals are not the exotics that everybody flocks to. He loves the ungulates or hoofed animals. He calls them the “underdogs”. Two of his favorites are the Ocapi and the Somali Wild Ass.
9- Peccie is very passionate about his work
“My life is committed to these animals” …Peccie. These word could not have been more true. When listening to him speak about these amazing creatures you could feel the love in his words. This is not a job to him, it’s his life, and he gives is all to it.
10- He cried
Did I mention he is passionate? Well he is! And, you can see it. Peccie isn’t just a curator working from the side lines. He is in every day to personally check in on the animals. He works hands on with the keepers to ensure they are receiving the best care possible. We saw tears fall from his eyes when speaking with us. He told us how it saddens him that kids only get to experience these animals on TV. “They need to see them up close” he said. He strives everyday to share his passion with the guests here. And he does a darn good job too!
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge don’t pass it up. Weather you decide to stay in one of their beautiful rooms or just stop by as a guest. This place is an attraction all it’s own and should not be missed. Keep your eyes open and you may be lucky enough to meet Mr. Greg Peccie for yourself.
Remember, if you see Monkey Kingdom by April 23rd a portion of ticket sales will go towards the Disney Conservation Fund so monkeys like Maya and Kip can have a bright future!