Rated as a #1 thing to do in the Palm Desert, whether you are a resident or visitor of the area, you have to check out The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Not just a zoo for viewing animals, The Living Desert is committed to desert conservation through their efforts at preservation and education. A non-profit organization, they rely on the revenue they make, as well as donations to keep running.
Created almost 50 years ago, the Living Desert was conceived by a group who wanted to make sure that a good portion of the Coachella Valley was preserved for future use. As time went on, the zoo evolved, offering educational programs, visitor experiences and so much more. The Living Desert sees over 400,000 visitors in a year and they even have a classroom outreach program to teach kids more about the desert we live in.
Visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The morning is the best time to visit as the afternoons get mighty hot – both for you and for the animals – but the zoo is open from 9am until 5pm through the fall, winter and spring and closes at 1:30 pm in the summer. Tickets are $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors and $9.95 for children, with ages 3 and under free. But, you may want to bring extra money to get a camel ride or feed a giraffe! Summer memberships are only $25, so if you looking for something fun to do with the kids a few times over those months off school, this could be it.
There are a number of fun areas to visit, including exhibits from Africa and North America. You can enjoy presentations, animal chats, the conservation center, wildlife hospital and an ant lab! Gecko Gulch is a kid’s desert playground over one acre with gold panning, sand dunes and underground tunnels.
Conservation and Sustainability
If you are more interested in the conservation aspect of the zoo, you’ll want to visit the Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center, where you can get a docent-led tour and watch medical procedures. The zoo is engaged in a number of research programs like studying the ears of sand cats and studying helicobacter organism from the biopsies of cheetah stomachs. Their main focus is on the conservation of desert plants, and the Joshua Tree Genome is an initiative where they’ve partnered up with international scientists to identify genes involved in coevolution of yucca with yucca moths for climate adaptation. Other aims of the Living Desert include:
• Conservation education
• Sustainable use of the property
• Field research
• Reintroduction and recovery of rare and endangered species
• Ecological integrity
• Land management
• Technology development for assisted reproduction
• Endangered species recovery team participation
Not just animals, the Living Desert gardens are a sight to see as well, with over 1,400 different species of plants with unique characteristics that ensure their survival in desert conditions. But, not only are these plants typical of the Coachella Valley, you can feel like you are visiting the Mohave, the Colorado Desert, Madagascar and other global deserts.