Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts
Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts

Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts.

Miles away from Florida’s beautiful beaches, the future of Florida’s coral reefs sits right at the heart of Central Florida, just a short distance from Walt Disney World Resort.

For the past four years, a team of Disney aquatic wildlife experts has teamed with other conservationists on a special mission to help save Florida’s coral reefs from the rapid spread of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), which has put 22 coral species at risk of extinction. 

The Orlando-based Florida Coral Rescue Center (FCRC) is a state-of-the-art facility that cares for hundreds of corals that are most at risk of SCTLD. Scientists say the disease has become a widespread issue that has now swept the entirety of Florida’s coral reef and other regions around the world.

FCRC corals will play a significant part in the future restoration plans for Florida’s coral reef. The breeding program is focused on ensuring genetic diversity of offspring and will provide the tens of thousands of baby corals required to restore the reef. 

Caring for Coral Colonies

Disney is one of the accredited groups leading the charge and helping fund the facility and assist in coral conservation alongside the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). First opening in 2020, the FCRC has been monumental in its efforts, providing a safe, stable environment for more than 500 coral colonies to receive world class care from a team of science experts.

[Rt. to Lt.] Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker and Disney Conservation Science Manager Dr. Andy Stamper discuss their collaborative efforts to save corals through the FCRC.

Related: Five Disney Park Women Impacting Disney Animals Who’ll Inspire You

Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts

Caring for coral is a complex endeavor, and our teams have grown this expertise both through their dedication to the wellbeing of coral in our care at The Seas at Epcot, and their leadership in a longstanding collaborative reef conservation program in The Bahamas. A team of researchers from Disney Cruise Line and Disney Conservation have worked since 2007 to reverse the decline of coral reefs in The Bahamas, partnering with several local organizations to expand coral restoration. In total, Disney has planted more than 1,900 corals to rehabilitate five coral reefs in The Bahamas, helping to provide important habitats for multiple marine species including endangered Nassau grouper and spiny lobster. Building on this long-term commitment to helping protect and restore coral reefs, Disney teamed up with multiple collaborators to help establish the Florida Coral Rescue Center. 

“With the Florida coastline as home to Disney Cruise Line and part of our backyard, we know keeping coral reefs healthy is essential to the vitality of our coastline, underwater ecosystems, and our economy,” said Dr. Mark Penning, vice president of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment. “Disney has long been a leader in coral conservation, particularly through our ongoing efforts in The Bahamas, and we are honored to support efforts to rescue and protect Florida’s coral reefs and work with others who share our passion so we can save nature together and make a difference.” 

Landmark Step for Coral Conservation

Since its inception, the facility has been making historical steps in coral conservation.  

In 2022, teams at the FCRC celebrated after a rough cactus coral spawned for the first time in human care. This event was significant because the coral is listed as threatened according to the Endangered Species Act. These new corals will be used as part of a diverse genetic breeding program that will hopefully one day restore reefs suffering from SCTLD.  

The FCRC’s work comes at a critical time as our oceans face new challenges.  
During the summer of 2023, ocean temperatures in the Florida Keys hit all-time highs leaving Florida corals and marine life to endure hot tub like conditions. At the time, experts at the FCRC helped provide crucial information to mobilized teams about how to care for corals stressed by the hot conditions including feeding regimens and coral recovery. 

Protecting the Magic of Nature

“The effort to reverse the collapse of an entire ecosystem isn’t something that can be done without the herculean efforts of many people with a diversity of talents and resources,” said Dr. Andy Stamper, Disney Conservation Science Manager. “I consider it a privilege to play even a small part in this huge effort.” 

Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts
Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts

Disney Conservation is committed to saving wildlife and building a global community inspired to protect the magic of nature together.  

Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed more than $125 million to support nonprofit organizations working with communities to save wildlife, inspire action and protect the planet. The Disney Conservation team leads best-in-class scientific programs to conserve wildlife in Disney’s backyard and beyond, connects people to build a network for nature, and cares for the planet through everyday actions. To learn more, visit

Rescuing Coral Reefs Just Miles from Walt Disney World Resorts