Nearly five years ago, I started my Disney career as a professional intern for the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). I helped support the annual grants program and shared Disney’s conservation efforts with our cast members, employees and guests. I became fascinated with the people and the projects that DWCF funded, and almost immediately grew a passion for protecting wildlife and caring for the environment.
That’s why I’m so excited to share with you, an exclusive interview with one of our 2012 annual grant recipients, Save The Elephants’ Dr. Lucy King. DWCF funds will be used to support their “Save The Elephants” (STE) project.
Lucy and her team explore the behavior of wild African elephants in Kenya to help the species and the people of the nearby communities. Elephants were being eliminated by farmers because they were destroying crops. Through their research, STE discovered that elephants were afraid of honeybees. Their findings led to the construction of protective beehive fences as a tool to stop crop-raiding elephants. The beehive fences not only help reduce human-elephant conflict but also provide the farmers with honey and bee products to sell.
Lucy explained that this year’s DWCF grant will be used to test a new beehive-fence design that uses a different kind of bee, which produces more honey (allowing additional economic opportunities for the farmers). They’ll use the funds to host beehive construction workshops and beekeeping training for local farmers. They’ll also use the grant to test a new tracking device to develop quick ways to monitor elephants in an effort to reduce ivory poaching.
Lucy shares, “Disney’s support of our project is absolutely critical. Not only does it provide regular and substantial funds for field equipment, staff and logistics but it also helps to raise our profile within Kenya and further afield. Part of our mission is to educate the wider public about our elephant conservation research, and Disney’s support of our work gives us a broader profile than we would be able to achieve on our own.”
Disney scientists and educators have also joined STE’s efforts to protect African elephants. Scientists from Disney’s Animal Kingdom helped conduct a series of audio playback experiments to capture elephant reactions to bees, and our partners at Disney’s Animal Programs Education Team have been helping to integrate conservation messages into the local school curriculum.
Lucy adds, “The research staff and team at Disney have been instrumental in assisting us with new techniques and methods, tested first in the U.S. and then field tested in the wild in Africa. It’s a very fruitful partnership and one we hope will continue for many years to come.”
STE was one of 75 nonprofit organizations to receive Disney funding this year. This year marks a $20 million milestone of giving for DWCF. To view the complete list of this year’s recipients please click here.