The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, California, seeks to preserve a portion of the Colorado Desert and foster a public awareness on the plants and animals native to the region through interpretive exhibits and programming. The Living Desert Zoo also takes part in controlled populations and conservation programs and contributes to biological studies that contribute to the desert species protection.
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Trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum established the Living Desert Zoo Gardens in 1970 to stop the development of resort properties on the desert ecosystems. The Gardens began as an interpretive trail and preserve in the Palm Trail in a effort lead by Phillip Boyd on an initial 360 acres.
The Living Desert has since expanded to 1200 acres with 1,000 acres remaining in a natural, undeveloped state, erected an administration building, gift shop, theater, animal exhibits and habitats, a series of landscaped gardens, an aviary, a desert oasis, and established an education department with a full-time staff and board of trustees.
By the 1980’s the Living Desert was heavily involved in several conservation projections for endangered species and international efforts for the efforts to save slender-horned gazelles. In 1983, The Living Desert received accreditation from The American Zoo and Aquarium Association which lead to increased attendance. More expansion occurred, especially in the education department in the late 1980’s and the staff was increased to 50 in 1990.
Over the next two decades, the Living Desert would continue to expand and offer more animal exhibits and endangered species programs and conservation. Camel Rides and other dynamic attractions have been added in recent years. The Living Desert Zoo Gardens is open every day except Christmas Day, although Seasonal Hours vary.
The Animal Exhibits are divided into 4 regions—North America, Asian, Australia, and Africa. A complete list of animals found at Living Desert Zoo Gardens can be found online.
Africa-Animals that thrive in the deserts of the Sahara, and other African deserts such as the slender-horned gazelle, weaver finches, meerkats, warthogs, and Grevy’s Zebra are found here.
North America-Small desert animals of North America are showcased in this habitat that are nocturnal in nature. Visitors will find birds of prey, mammals such as wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, and the endangered pronghorn.
Village WaTuTu- This area includes an area where children can pet animals that would be found in the desert farming communities of Africa.
Eagle Canyon- This habitat combines subtropical scrublands and forested mountains in desert canyons. The walkthrough aviary can be found in this exhibit.
Ant Lab- This giant colony of 10,000 ants is completely exposed for viewing at the Discovery Center.
Gecko Gulch- The outdoor play area for kids.
Wildlife Wonder Presentations- These presentations make it possible for Living Desert visitors to get up close and personal with zoo animals through interactive shows and experiences. One of the most popular attractions in this category is Zoorassic Park, a 25-minute dinosaur themed show, there are also animal encounters that allow visitors to touch small animals such as hedgehogs, snakes, frogs, and birds. The Wildlife Programs Department can even bring the animals to the community through partnerships with schools, corporate events, or even be arranged for private events.
Tennity Wildlife Hospital & Conservation Center- The Hospital and Conservation Center was opened in 2002 and is used to care for the animals at the Living Desert Zoo. Guided Tours are available of the facility.
Trails- There are over 1,000 acres of undisturbed natural preserve at Living Desert Zoo Gardens with three trails available for hiking. Every visitor must sign in and out when using the trails.
Carousel- The Endangered Species Carousel, also called Marilyn’s Merry-Go-Round, is near the Gecko Gulch Playground and is wheelchair accessible.
Miriam Hoover Discovery Center- This building is airconditioned and includes interactive, educational exhibits featuring the Coachella Valley Region and is included in Zoo Admission.
G-Scale Model Train Display- Beginning as part of the Wildlights holiday exhibit, the model trains came to the Living Desert in 1998and were such a hit that they began running full time in 2001.
Plein Air Art Collection- The Stephen B Chase Administration Building is home to this art collection featuring 49 paintings by some of California’s greatest artists. The collections span the years 1900-1939 and includes many landscapes of the Coachella Valley.
The Living Desert Zoo Gardens offers events and exhibits that are aligned with the state of California State Curriculum Standards and is a popular place for field trips. Self-guided Zoo-Zone programs offer teachers and students a chance to explore the zoo on their own while having their questions answered by the zoo volunteers. There are also programs for scouts, A Living Desert University, and numerous volunteer programs and workshops. Details can be found on the Living Zoo website.
47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, California, 92260, website, Phone: 760-346-5694