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Nature Up Close in the Botanical Gardens and the Living Desert in Palm Desert

Palm Desert Living Desert

Yes, we have Giraffes in the desert! One of the most unique zoological domains with adjacent botanical gardens you will ever see is right here in the great American southwest. Located in the eco-savvy Coachella Valley, the Living Desert has been a local staple for more than 40 years. Established in 1970 by visionaries who foresaw the ecosystem impact civilization would have as the desert community grew, this 1800 acre preserve is a testament to the conservation and preservation of our precious natural resources. A full 1000 acres is still in a completely natural state. Staffed by the most experienced and dedicated naturalists in the field, this amazing facility has set the standard for desert interpretation for several decades as it has developed from the original 360 acres to the landmark compound it is today.

The Living Desert continues to expand, adding exciting and innovative new exhibits and attractions on a consistent basis. This singular valley oasis educates, entertains, researches, preserves and protects the flora and fauna that are specific to this portion of the Sonoran desert. The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens are the sole existing combination of its kind that is dedicated exclusively to the deserts of the world. With varied programs that provide environmental education, native wildlife rehabilitation, plant propagation and habitat restoration, this amazing venue is a testament to the understanding and concern this valley has for its precious environment.

Special programs such as captive breeding of African and Sonoran Desert species of numerous kinds set this wildlife park apart from others worldwide. A special program designed for the preservation of the Coachella Valley’s iconic Desert Bighorn sheep is especially important since the number of these beautiful creatures has declined steadily over the years. An important part of the local fauna, this species of Bighorn Sheep can rival the camel for going days or even weeks without water. Perfectly adapted to the Northern Mexico and Southwestern United States climatically dry conditions, they are absolutely stunning to observe.

The Botanical Gardens feature several specific desert environments, which include: the Mohave Desert with its Joshua Tree habitat and Eastern Mojave habitat; the Chichuahuan Desert inclusive of the Rio Bravo-Big Bend (New Mexico-Texas) and Northern Mexico Plateau habitats; the Sonoran Desert inclusive of the Sonora, Mexico Madrean foothills habitat, Yuma Desert-southwest Arizona habitat and Vizcaino Desert-Baja California Desert habitat gardens; the Colorado Desert (Sonoran Desert sub-region) inclusive of the desert mountains habitat of the indigenous 2.000 to 3.000 feet elevation landscape, the Cahuilla Ethno Botanic Garden of the indigenous Cahuilla tribe and focus area representing the Lower Colorado River Valley habitat and the Colorado-Sonoran Desert natural springs, ponds and riparian habitats.

Do not miss the many specialized areas of the gardens including the Madagascar garden, the Hummingbird garden, the Mexican cactus garden, and the McDonald butterfly and wildflower garden all of which are rare and beautifully maintained. There is also a bird sanctuary with California fan palms surrounding a walk-in aviary. Here you will relax to the sounds of thousands of diverse desert fowl such as the dove, quail, roadrunner, ducks, geese, owls, pelican and oh so many more! If you enjoy birding you will want to spend one whole day in this section alone.

Desert animals face challenges that many other animals simply do not. Among the most crucial are the retention of water, the acquisition of water, the avoidance of extreme heat and the dissipation of heat. Nature has created many evolutionary mechanisms to protect desert wildlife. Crepuscular activity (restriction of activity to morning and evening only) is one reason you will seldom have a dreaded run in with a rattlesnake or Gila monster in the Coachella Valley. Other animals are completely nocturnal such as bats and skunks. Many animals use shade, burrow, or sleep during the hottest part of the day to conserve energy and moisture. Our varied and natural desert wildlife have acquired clever ways of locating and acquiring water. Some of them can manufacture water metabolically when they digest dry food while others know how to derive water directly from the succulent plants and cactus.

These are just a few of the exciting subjects you will learn about during your visit to the Living Desert in Palm Desert. On the venue grounds you will have an opportunity to explore the wildlife hospital and conservation center. This state of the art facility has been open since 2002 and provides ongoing medical care to all the zoo wildlife as well as rescue animals. Docent led tours are available as well as the observation of medical procedures and examinations in progress in the animal treatment rooms. Watch a veterinarian at work and learn more about how our native animals are handled. Several well established and newer animal exhibits include mountain lions, bobcats, cheetahs, warthogs and gazelles.

Memberships are available on several different levels and offer a wide range of amenities. Enjoy a camel ride, get up close and personal with your favorite reptiles and amphibians or enjoy the beautiful endangered species carousel which was constructed in 2009. One of the most recent exhibits is the Peninsular Pronghorn exhibit constructed in fall of 2010. There is always something new going on or in progress at the Living Desert. Village Wa Tu Tu, located on the venue grounds offers plenty of shade, two dining choices and two gift shops for your convenience and enjoyment.

Visit the living Desert and botanical Gardens website for details on hours of operation, admission prices, special discounts and parking. Education has never been so much fun!

Visit the Palm Desert Living Desert’s website here: http://www.livingdesert.org

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