Lunch with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge

This experience took place on September 27, 2014

This has become a favorite of ours – typically the Animal Specialists are enthusiastic about their work at Animal Kingdom Lodge and the food is very good (a wonderful way to get a great sampling of the food at Sanaa). Since Nevie is now a practicing veterinarian, when we were planning her visit, we really wanted to make sure that we did this.

Nevie and I had wine with our lunch – we looked at the menus and picked wines that were paired with various items. She started with a glass of Spice Route Chakalaka (South Africa) on our suggestion; after spending a week learning about her wine preferences, we were fairly certain she’d like this one… and she did. Her second wine was Spy Valley Pinot Noir (New Zealand)… she liked this one too. I had the Brampton Unoaked Chardonnay (South Africa) – quite nice but my second was my favorite, Solena Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley, Oregon) – I have a preference for Willamette Valley wines and this didn’t disappoint.

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Chef Cory and Chef Michelle (she’s from South Africa) and Mary Ann (our animal specialist)

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Chef Michelle was very enthusiastic, she was knowledgeable and passionate about the food at Sanaa

Mary Ann was our Animal Specialist today. She’s been in the zoo field for 12 years and she’s been at Animal Kingdom Lodge since February 2014.

  • birds are banded based on gender (one right leg and one left leg)
  • ear notching is used for identification
  • rails and doors are used to move the hoof stock down hallways and corridors
  • “tamers” are also used for some examinations and such (the floor drops away)
  • she talked about the stud book keepers – they’re volunteers, they have to be accepted and take special classes, there are some stud-book-keepers at Walt Disney World

Nevie really enjoyed this experience because she was able to ask all sorts of detailed questions about behaviors, colic, feeding, vetting, etc… She said this was her second favorite event of the trip. Her first favorite was the Wild Africa Trek.

I’m skipping photos of the bread service, needless to say (again), this is delicious and Sanaa is understandably famous for it.

Nevie comments: We ate at Sanaa and started off with the bread service. It was delicious all the different sauces were amazing. My favorites were the cucumber raita, garlic pickle and spicy jalapeno-lime pickle.

Salad service was the same as it’s been at our other Lunches with An Animal Specialist…

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

Tomato and Paneer Salad (I didn't care much for the paneer today)

Tomato and Paneer Salad (I didn’t care much for the paneer today)

Cucumber, Fennel, and Watermelon Salad (probably my favorite)

Cucumber, Fennel, and Watermelon Salad (probably my favorite and definitely Nevie’s favorite)

Our entrees were the same as on our previous two lunches …

Nevie comments: The entrée was two different types of curry with rice. The seafood curry was amazing and the chicken curry was not far behind. Both had great spice and a nice heat. I love the food here because the hot is not “just hot”, it is flavorful as well.

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Butter Chicken

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Seafood Goan Curry

The dessert course included a selection of three…

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Chocolate Mouse with salted caramel sauce, Banana Cheesecake with cookie crust, and Strawberry Kofi with berry sauce

Nevie comments: Dessert was a trio of deliciousness. It was beautifully plated with a chocolate butterfly to adorn the desserts. The sorbet was so creamy and delicious. The banana cheesecake was my favorite.

Afterwards, we went out on to the savannah for a demonstration with the storks (they don’t look anything like the storks who bring babies)…

storks are stationing

storks are stationing

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this is one of the birds’ keepers, they’re getting enrichment (mealy worms) and training simultaneously…

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Mary Ann explaining a bit more about the animals on the savannah

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these birds are ugly, true… but they’re very entertaining…

Now… I’m going to hush up and let Nevie talk…

There are three different Safaris at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Each safari houses a different variety of animals. There are two group of Antelope that they had to separate, they had a safari between them because they kept fence fighting and causing all the animals to become stressed! Disney is great about taking into account what needs to be done to keep all the animals as relaxed and calm as possible. No wonder they have an animal that is 19 years old (average life span of 10). Also, she told us there are three Zebras breeds (? species maybe?) and that two of them don’t get along at all and one that gets along with everyone. Obviously they cannot put the two that don’t get along together, so they rotate who is out every day. The one that gets along with everyone gets to go out every day (smart Zebra!). I wasn’t surprised when I asked her what the most difficult animal to work with was and she replied “Zebras” after hearing how stubborn they are with each other.

We had a lot of children at our table and I was concerned they were going to ask silly questions that no one really cared about, but surprisingly they didn’t really ask a lot of questions. The questions they did ask were actually interesting ones. They wanted to know how they got the animals to the vets’ office. The answer was a bit lengthy surprisingly. If it is something they can do at the barn, they have a hydraulic shoot that the animals go into and get squeezed (restrained). This shoot can also tilt, so if the animal needs hoof work performed, they just tip them over and do the work, then tip them back and out they go. If it is something they actually have to go up to the clinic for, they load the animals into trucks and take them to the vet clinic. To get the animals to move along where they want them to go, they have a metal shield that helps push the animals down the hall. I wish I had one of those in vet school!

We talked about the giraffes for a bit since they are one of her favorite animals. They are treating one right now for lameness but she wasn’t sure what they were using to control his pain. I asked if they allowed him to breed since he has joint issues and she said no. There is a lot of paperwork and genetic testing before they allow any of their animals to breed. Someone’s job is to make sure they are not breeding animals with genetic issues, inbreeding, and not over breeding, which is really cool. Disney does a great job making sure they have room for the animals and that they receive the best possible care. The specialist wasn’t too happy with the strict diets when having to give them pills. The places she worked before they could hide it in a certain treat where as Disney wants the animals to take their medicines without extra treats.

It was such a great experience overall. The only thing that ruined it was they sat a huge table of kids right near us that were obnoxiously loud and made it hard to hear our specialist talk. After lunch, we went out to the viewing area and got to see a demonstration of enrichment with the storks. They already knew the drill and as soon as they saw their stumps over a certain line they ran over and jumped on them. They got their meal worm treats and waited patiently for their turn to get another mouth full.

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