On this day in 1998, Disney's Animal Kingdom (Disney World's 4th theme park but Disney's 7th park in the world) had its grand opening. Appropriately debuting on Earth Day, DAK is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums - which means Disney has met and exceeded the standards in education, conservation, and research.
The idea for DAK can be traced back to January 1990 when Imagineering Concept Designer Joe Rhode met with then CEO Michael Eisner about a concept for an animal park/nontraditional zoo. Disney's "Wild Animal Kingdom" project was announced in June 1995 with ground being broken the following August.
The park, which covers 500 acres, is Disney's first to be themed around animal conservation. When it first opened, the park was divided up into sections called Oasis, Safari Village, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Conservation Station, DinoLand USA, and a small portion of Asia.
DAK today is broken up into seven themed areas - Oasis (the entrance area), Discovery Island (the main land previously known as Safari Village), Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki's Planet Watch (formerly Conservation Station), Asia, and DinoLand USA.
The park's icon, The Tree of Life, is a 145-foot tall artificial tree featuring more than 300 animals hand carved into its trunk.
Happy 10th anniversary DAK ... and happy Earth Day.
Click HERE for more April 22 Disney history.