Good post and pretty disheartening.Let me begin by stating that I am not a Disney insider. I do not have the knowledge of members like @WDW1974 , @marni1971 , and @Magic Feather . I am a research psychologist that regularly attends and presents at conferences and meetings that are attended by animal scientists and comparative psychologists that work at Disney's Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo and Friends (which is still referred to as The Living Seas at professional conferences). Over the past several years, I have studied play, including its purpose, how it is measured, and how it is comparable between humans and non-human animals. Because of this research program, I have had the opportunity to meet with two scientists and one imagineer.
These individuals have described Disney's Animal Kingdom as being "the red headed stepchild" of Disney Parks. Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Beyond animal care and management, accredited zoos and aquariums are to engage in rigorous conservation, research, and education programs. Although Disney has Disneynature and the Disney Conservation Fund, there is a significant disconnect between these arms of the company and Disney's Animal Kingdom park. Specifically, the animal scientists and conservation biologists are not heard.
Take Kilimanjaor Safairs for example. Zebras tend not to be aggressive. However, on the safari, they began displaying pack-like behavior and hunted other animals. Giraffes commonly fell because of the terrain. These are serious issues that do not have to be addressed on The Jungle Cruise. When Pandora was announced, significant concerns were raised regarding how lighting and noise could cause the animals stress. I am told that individuals outside of the animal science program neither understand these issues nor want to deal with them.
As recent as November 2016, I was told that animal programs would not be expanded at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Instead, over time, they would be reduced as the parked shifts from an AZA zoo to a jungle theme park. Instead of an Australia with kangaroos and koalas or South America with an Amazon rainforest, the direction is to use IPs like The Jungle Book, Indiana Jones, and Zootopia. Animals will continue to have a presence in the park, but the focus will not be inspiring through live animals.
The Oasis has several animal habitats, which continue to remain empty. Also, it is not always common to be met by someone from the animal science team that is showcasing an animal in that area. The reason for this, again from the people that I know, is because animal programming is not valued. Like Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom is going to change. However, unless you are entering the park seeking scientific discovery, you may not even notice what slowly disappears.