The Walt Disney Company has been a massively successful enterprise for several decades now. At first glance, you may think Disney has never experienced failure bad enough to abandon an entire park; but you would be wrong.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that the land where the Walt Disney World Resort now stands, existed as something else before. The island of Discovery Island itself was actually a family farmland in the early 1900s. In the 1930s, it was purchased for only $800 by a couple who lived there for 20 years. Then it was sold and used as a hunting retreat until 1965 when Disney purchased it secretly for Walt Disney World.

Discovery Island Boat Dock

The island opened to the public in 1974 as Treasure Island. It was a place where guests could observe wildlife in a somewhat natural habitat. Technically you could say it was the early Animal Kingdom before Animal Kingdom existed. Eventually, the name of the island was changed to Discovery Island.

Admission cost $10.60 for adults and $5.83 for children in the year 1995. There were several things to do on Discovery Island. Here is a list of some of the former attractions and sights:

  • Alligator Pool - Here, guests got to see a few American Alligators.
  • Avian Way - This was the most extensive breeding colony of peacocks, scarlet ibis, and Muntjacs in the United States.
  • Bamboo Hallow - Guests got to see lemurs here, which normally only live in Madagascar.
  • Cranes Roost - Cranes were showcased in this area. This is actually extra fun because the couple who lived on the island in the 1930s had a pet crane.
  • Eagles Watch - Guests could see America’s national bird, the bald eagle here.
  • Flamingo Lagoon - Guests could check out real flamingos in this area.
  • Monkey Colony - Capuchin monkeys were showcased for guests in this spot.
  • Parrots Perch - This was a Discovery Island Bird Show with several different kinds of birds.
  • Pelican Bay - You could see pelicans here, obviously.
  • Toucan Corner - Colorful birds that might remind you of a fruity cereal were here.
  • Tortoise Beach - Galapagos Tortoises, which are very rare animals.
  • Trumpeter Springs - Swans floated through a beautiful pond.
  • Vultures - The most controversial of the areas and possibly one of the reasons for closure. Vultures could be seen here.
  • Last of the Species - One of the animals who resided here was the last known Dusky Seaside Sparrow before it was declared extinct in 1990.

Discovery Island closed on April 8, 1999, which was ironically the 25th anniversary of its opening. As usual, Disney hasn't given an official reason for the closure, but there are a few theories.

There were some accusations of cast members mishandling the animals, particularly the vultures. Whether it was true or not, it was a huge blow to Discovery Island’s reputation. That, combined with maintenance costs and Animal Kingdom’s opening, might have had something to do with the closure.