When you want to see animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, where’s the first place you go? For me, it was always Kilimanjaro Safaris. With over 30 species roaming the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, you’re guaranteed a wild encounter. Since becoming a cast member, though, I realized I was missing so many amazing animals while beelining over to Africa. There are plenty of animals to see all over the park. Here are five of my favorite “secret” animals to look out for during your next visit.
While snapping a photo in front of the Tree of Life, you might be photobombed by a sweet, energetic kangaroo! Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to two species of kangaroos including four western grey and two red. To get a better look, turn left at the Tree of Life photo area, and you’ll see the kangaroos to your right. The red ones have a white stripe on their face, which is how you can tell the difference.
2. American Crocodile
Over in DinoLand, you can find more than just dinosaurs! It’s also home to Marley, the American crocodile. You can find him making his way between water and land throughout the day to regulate his body temperature. Wondering how you can tell the difference between this reptilian species and their alligator cousin? Look at their snouts! American crocodiles have long narrow snouts while alligators have a wider, U-shaped snout.
3. Naked Mole Rats
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail presented by OFF! Repellents is a great place to find big animals like hippos, gorillas and okapis, but it’s also home to one of our smallest animals: naked mole rats. You can find these little, pink rodents in the research center and, while they may look naked, they’re actually covered in very fine hair. Their hair is sensory and helps them navigate the dark, underground tunnels where they live.
4. Southern Giant Anteaters
Before heading to Discovery Island, take a moment to enjoy The Oasis, located at the very front of the Park before you see the Tree of Life. It’s home to many unique animals, like the southern giant anteater. With their long, cylindrical snouts, anteaters have an incredible sense of smell, up to 40 times stronger than humans. They rely heavily on this sense because of their not too great eyesight.
5. Animals at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Did you know you can take a short and scenic train ride to visit a very special section of the park? Rafiki’s Planet Watch is one of my favorite “secret” spots at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and it’s the perfect place to spot some of our most lovable animals. I love the Affection Section, where you can say hello to Nigerian dwarf goats and kunekune pigs. At the Conservation Station, you can find reptiles like the Florida-native gopher tortoise, the desert rosy boa and the colorful splash-backed poison frog. If your timing is right, you may catch our animal health team caring for animals through an observation window at Disney’s state-of-the-art veterinary hospital.
Bonus: Paroon Shark Catfish
Got time to visit one more animal? Say hi to Bruce the paroon shark catfish near the Tree of Life Garden! These freshwater fish often spend their time in deeper water and can grow up to ten feet long.
I hope you’re inspired to travel off the beaten path to experience these special animals during your next trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For a behind-the-scenes look at the outstanding animal care our cast members provide, check out Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment on Facebook, follow Dr. Mark on Instagram and stream Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Disney+.