Building Advocates

Building Advocates

I mentioned in a previous post how Jane Goodall’s work in Africa with primates was showcased in a 1963 edition of National Geographic along with Walt Disney. That combination would come again in the early days of Disney’s Animal Kingdom development.

One of the things that Disney learned in the wake of its failed attempt to create Disney’s America in Virginia was that it should have had leaders in the field of American history and conservation be advocates for the project. So when Disney embarked on creating Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they knew that they needed some of the most respected minds in zoological and animal studies/research to get behind them on this project. Judson Green, who headed Walt Disney World, and Rick Barongi, who was Disney’s first animal/zoo expert to join Imagineering, thought to recruit an advisory committee of leading zoological and conservation experts. For instance, Roger Caras, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was one such member. Another member was Jane Goodall.

Over the years, the relationship with Jane has increased with Disney in any number of ways:

Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, which involves guests giving a dollar on top of their purchase at the park, in exchange for a button, has contributed to the work that the staff of the Jane Goodall Institute is doing. Initially that involved creating a visitor center in Gombe that would help educate local people and international tourists about chimpanzees and their environment. Later, funds were provided to help remove the illegal traps and snares employed by poachers. That same fund is providing support to the Jane Goodall Institute in what is called the “Reverse the Decline, Increase the Time” initiative. This cause collaborates with a youth-led community to help increase the time kids and families spend in nature and to help plant trees.

Throughout the park, there are tributes and reminders of Jane’s contribution to the animal kingdom. Most notable is the sculpting a chimpanzee into the roots of the Tree of Life and a plaque honoring Jane at the base of the Tree.

In 1998, Jane Goodall received Disney’s Animal Kingdom Eco Hero Award.

In 2012, Chimpanzee, a theatrical nature documentary feature was released by Disneynature. Goodall currently serves as an ambassador for Disneynature.

When Disneynature’s production of Bears was created, Jane, in the same role as ambassador for Disneynature, flew to the Alaska Peninsula to experience the work going on there. She reflected on that experience in the marketing materials that went out on that film.

Jane and the work she has done has greatly benefited from the symbiotic relationship she has had with the Walt Disney Company. The company has in return benefited greatly from her support of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s a stark contrast to what is happening at SeaWorld, where Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau, and president of the Ocean Futures Society, recently made remarks that SeaWorld should set their captive orcas free, rather than allow them to finish out their lives in captivity. It’s another hit on a long list of setbacks for SeaWorld.

In any organization, you need advocates. Who are yours? How are you making that advocacy beneficial for all involved? How is that advocacy building on your mission?

J. Jeff Kober

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