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Zoos: Living Desert Zoo and Gardens – a Potted History

Related: Gulf World Marine Park / Monterey Bay Aquarium / San Francisco Zoo / Palm Beach Zoo

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is both a zoo and botanical gardens, located in Palm Desert, California (Palm Springs).

The project was initially established simply as a nature trail and preserve back in 1970 by Philip L. Boyd and a number of the other trustees at the Palm Springs Desert Museum who had the foresight to see the impact that the development of the resort would have upon the environment’s fragile eco-system. 

However, the most positive impact upon the zoo and botanical gardens occurred when Philip Boyd decided to enlist the help of a young, passionate naturalist called Karen Sausman to work on the project full-time. With her experience as a park ranger, zoo keeper, her graduate work in wildlife biology and her burgeoning passion and enthusiasm, Karen will have spent 40 years in March 2010 devoting so much of her life to the zoo and botanical gardens and it is primarily down to her vision that they have become what they are today.

The zoo and gardens is quite rightly proud of its claim that it is the only place in the USA which is devoted solely to the world’s deserts. Attractions at the zoo and gardens include replicated deserts such as the Mojave, Colorado, Sonoran and Chihuahan. These deserts provide invaluable environmental education, captive breeding, plant propagation and native wildlife rehabilitation opportunities.

Animals you will see at the zoo include gazelles, bobcats, mountain lions, giraffes, ostriches, badgers, bighorn sheep, meerkats, cheetahs and warthogs. One of the latest additions is the Amphibians on the Edge exhibit which opened at the zoo and gardens in 2007 and is host to a wide variety of toads, frogs and salamanders. 

In addition to the deserts and the diverse wildlife, there are also around 17 different specialist gardens to visit. They include the Madagascar Gardens which only contain plants that are native to the island of Madagascar. There is a garden dedicated to cacti and one dedicated to yucca species and an East African garden which has one of the best collections of native African plant and tree species in North America. 

Eagle Canyon at the zoo and gardens is a colourful walk through aviary which is home to many native North American birds. You may even catch a glimpse of the rare Mexican grey wolf!


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