UPDATE: Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be closing next month, but it won’t be gone forever, as Disney says it will undergo an “extensive refurbishment” before reopening in spring 2019.
The closure will come in phases. The meet-and-greet with Rafiki from “The Lion King” will end on September 29. The rest of its activities — like Conservation Station and the Wildlife Express train — will close on October 21. No date has been set for its reopening.
Besides being an attraction for guests, Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Conservation Station also houses veterinary services for the animals in the park, including a rehabilitation center and nursery.
The area has been the subject of numerous rumors about it being replaced. Jim Hill of the Disney Dish Podcast reported earlier this year that Disney was conducting surveys to gauge the popularity of the film “Zootopia” with Animal Kingdom guests as a potential replacement.
Animal Kingdom hasn’t seen a major addition since Pandora: The World of Avatar opened in 2017. The opening of the latest attraction helped boost attendance at the park from 10.8 million guests in 2016 to 12.5 million the next year, making it the second-most-popular Disney World park after the Magic Kingdom and the sixth most-visited theme park in the world.
Other Disney World parks have major additions under construction and set to open for the resort’s 50th anniversary in 2021, such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” indoor roller coaster and “Ratatouille” ride at Epcot and the “Tron” roller coaster at Magic Kingdom.
For Animal Kingdom, no new attractions have been announced in time for the semicentennial celebration.