Dr. Mark Penning is the Vice President: Animals, Science and Environment for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. His role includes overseeing animal care and related experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot, and the horses at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, along with animal experiences at other locations around the globe. Leveraging the meaningful field conservation initiatives supported by the Disney Conservation Fund, his team shares inspirational stories and experiences of nature and animals with theme park and Resort Guests. His role includes oversight of the company’s use of animals in all film and television programming from an animal welfare perspective, making sure that content relating to animals and nature is both accurate and responsible. He has worked on The Lion King, as well as DisneyNature’s Born in China and Penguins, the latter filmed in the Antarctic. He also leads a team of environmental specialists working to minimize the company’s environmental footprint. His team can be seen in action in The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, now streaming on Disney+ from National Geographic.
Mark is a veterinarian by training and was born and raised in South Africa. He owned and operated a veterinary hospital and a wildlife relocation business in South Africa before joining The Walt Disney Company 10 years ago. He specialized in the treatment of birds and reptiles and has done surgical work in the field on lions, elephants and a host of other species.
Before joining Disney, Mark served as CEO of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), based in Durban, South Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to marine research and conservation. In this capacity, he led a team of animal care professionals in hand-rearing some 500 baby penguins following a catastrophic oil spill off Cape Town. He was delighted to return these brave little birds back to the waters of Cape Town once they had feathered up properly following months of care and could be successfully released. As a veterinarian, he relocated dozens of large sharks, including tiger sharks, between aquariums and back into the ocean. He has also served as President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), based currently in Barcelona.
Mark has tremendous passion for all natural habitats and the incredible creatures that depend on them. He has a passion for protecting the environment by convincing people to protect the habitat in their immediate surrounds, and thereby create places for wildlife to live and to thrive. He has traveled extensively through the bushveld in Africa, the forests of South and SE Asia and Central Africa, the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, the outback of Australia, and the wilderness of the Far East, and has enjoyed diving in several locations in the Western Indian Ocean with big sharks and giant manta rays.