Saturday, January 15, 2011

Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens~ Palm Desert, CA

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA was established in 1970 by some of the trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum. They had the foresight to understand the impact that resort development would have on the desert ecosystem and set out to preserve, conserve and interpret the desert with all its’ varied plants and animal life.  The Living Desert represents North America as well as Africa with their zoo and botanical gardens from deserts all over the world. There are over 1200 protected acres and 450 wild animals.

The entrance of the Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA

In 1989 the Living Desert was accepted as a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has added many attractions since that time. One of those new additions is the Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center opened in Jan, 2002.  The hospital offers the highest quality of care and the public is invited to view medical procedures and examinations that are carried out behind glass walls. They also offer programs for the rehabilitating of local native wildlife and they accept the orphaned and injured.

One of many botonical gardens in Living Desert

There are many different botanical gardens with a wide variety of plants from the many different deserts. 1080 of the 1200 Acres are undisturbed Sonoran Desert that offers a series of nature trails.  There is a choice between three different trails depending on the hikers experience.

Miniature train travels through the adobe village
The model train in the Living Desert was first displayed at the Wildlights holiday program in 1998.  It began as an evening display on a part time basis but due to the popularity of the display, it now runs all year during park hours. 

The miniature train travels thru the Old West town
The display is built in “G” scale (1/2”=12”), the most popular “large scale” train and has a redwood trestle that is 201’8” in length with a 2’ elevation change. The volunteer-run train expands and improves yearly and now passes ghost towns of the Old West, through Main St., USA, and travels through the Napa Valley Vineyards as well as adobe villages, too.  The workmanship is amazing and for anyone who enjoys miniature train displays, this one will captivate and keep your attention.

The Cheetah in the Living Desert Zoo
Some cheetah populations have become extinct, and the remaining are endangered of becoming that.  With their canine teeth, they hunt in the morning or early afternoon to avoid the competition of the lions and hyenas, who, along with leopards and wild hogs also prey upon the cheetah and their cubs.  Cheetah usually have 3-5 cubs who are weaned at 6 months but remain with their mother till they’re 13-20 months while learning survival skills.

The Mexican Wolf in the Living Desert Zoo

The Mexican wolf or ‘lobo’ is the smallest of all North American wolves. Due to the overhunting by man of the wolves natural prey, they began preying on domestic cattle and sheep. There was an extermination campaign in the sixties that eliminated them all.  In 1976, the Mexican wolf became an endangered and protected species by the US and Mexican governments and a captive breeding program was created so that now there are over 170 animals.

The African Spurred Tortoise soaks up the sun
The African Spurred Tortoise is a vulnerable species from the Sahara Desert and northern Africa and are the largest mainland tortoise.  They are inactive during very hot or cold weather but run around quite well, especially just before it rains.  They will drink water when it is available but they can also get enough moisture from their diet of grass and shrubs, especially succulents.  Females will lay and bury up to 33 eggs that will take 80-136 days to incubate, depending on the temperature. 

The Meercat watches closely from his pen
The Meercat from the African Kalahari Desert survive by their strength in numbers.  They rotate guard duty while the group forages for food.  The males and females share babysitting duties as there is no social dominance, they are all equal to one another.  They share their food and shelter, play together and snuggle and cuddle one another.  They are 30 cm (12”) when full grown and live underground but are daytime creatures.
The Striped Hyena at nap time in Living Desert Zoo
The striped Hyena is a true desert dweller who lives in waterless areas.  They mainly live in arid areas of scrub woodland and brush so rely on their food for moisture.

The dromedary camel see something of interest
The dromedary camel has one single hump, which consists of fat that stores food for times of need. Their thickened lips are to allow eating of thorny plants, their splayed feet are callused for walking on hot sand, and long eyelashes, bushy eyebrows, sealing nostrils and fur-lined ears all protect them against sandstorms. Now we know why a camel is so darn cute!
The camel are capable of drinking up to 114 litres (30 gal.) of water in a short time, but can survive 10 months without water and will have water loss exceeding 40% of their bodyweight. The fat reserve stored in the hump serves as energy when they need to go long periods without food. They are amazing animals.

The Grevy's Zebra stand in the shade.
The Living Desert is part of a Species Survival Plan for them after the population of the Grevy’s zebra in the northern parts of Africa drastically declined due to the competition for water with the other animals there.  Grevy’s, the tallest of all zebras are 5’ high at the shoulder.  Their stripes surprisingly offer good camouflage that makes them almost invisible at dawn and dusk.  The stripes also make it difficult for their prey to single one of them out when running as a group.  Each zebra’s stripes are unique as our fingerprints are.  Foals are born brown and white, with a mane reaching from tip to tail, all down their back.  By the time they are 4 months old, the extra mane falls off and the brown turns black.  They are independent of their mother by the time they are 7 months old.

The Giraffe family in Living Desert
The giraffe is the tallest of all 4 legged animals with the males standing up to almost 6 meters (19’) and weighing in at 1.5 ton.  Like all mammals, they only have 7 vertebrae in their neck.  The baby is just under 2 meters (6’) tall at birth and doubles their height by one year.  In spite of their size and height, they walk with grace; here the parents and young one were not coming too close to our viewpoint.

The Living Desert sits at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains just off Highway #74 in Palm Desert, CA.  It is a non-profit organization that is one of the top tourist attractions in the Coachella Valley.  They are open daily from 9am to 5pm but have shorter hours during the summer months.  Arrive early to allow yourself the time it will take to enjoy this beautiful zoo and the botanical gardens and be prepared to spend most of the day. 


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