Saturday, November 10, 2012

Zoo Spotlight: The Living Desert

So at least a few times now, I have used pictures from a zoo we went to in Palm Desert called "The Living Desert."  An awesome zoo, this place (clearly) focuses a lot more on the desert animals of the world, and introduces you to a number of animals that you immediately recognize, and a number of animals that you might not otherwise be able to see at another zoo.  I thought I could share some of the pictures that I took at this exciting place, and recommend it to one and all as an exciting place to visit if you ever pass by that area!
Sand cat

Let's start off with some of the animals that you might not be able to see at most other zoos.  As regular readers know, I am a pretty big fan of cats, and The Living Desert definitely had its fair share!  For example, the "Near Threatened" sand cat (Felis margarita), the only cat that is found primarily in the desert.  One of my favorite small wild cats, the sand cat is found in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East.
Sand cat

Besides the sand cat, The Living Desert also has a few other small cats, including the Arabian wild cat, one of the many sub species of the wild cat, Felis silvestris.  Unfortunately, this little guy was asleep so I didn't get any pictures, but I did get pictures of two of the other smaller felines: the serval, and the bobcat, each of which we have done an Animal Spotlight on.  The serval is native to Africa, while the bobcat lives all over North America, in both forests and deserts.
Sleeping serval
Bobcat on the prowl
Other, larger cats can be found at The Living Desert, as well, including the jaguar and the mountain lion (both of which I got no pictures of), as well as the cheetah.  We saw two or three cheetahs, but they were all doing what cats do best: sleeping! 
Sleeping cheetah!

Another very interesting thing about the zoo is the vegetation.  Many people simply pass over it: but if you do stop to take a look at it, you might notice something interesting: a whole bunch of the plants, both in and out of the exhibits, are very prickly!  This is because the people at The Living Desert have done their best to make the vegetation in their exhibits as accurate as possible.  Pay special attention to the trees once you reach the large exhibit with both giraffes and kudu, a type of African antelope.  These incredibly spiky trees are called acacia trees, and these trees are one of the reasons why the giraffe has such an incredibly long tongue.  I've been able to see this tongue first hand on numerous occasion at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, including the last time I went with my friend Masaki Kleinkopf, as you can see in this incredible video.  The giraffe has been forced to evolve its incredibly long, prehensile in order to circumnavigate through and around these spiny branches in order to reach the leaves. 
Look at those spikes on those acacia trees!

A picture of myself feeding the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Grazing kudu
Another one of my favorite things at The Living Desert was the Miriam U. Hoover Discovery Center.  Indoor and air-conditioned (which, trust me, was very refreshing after being in a desert for a while!), the Discovery Center had a number of things for younger kids to do, but it was definitely worth stopping in, because they had an exhibit talking about the Pleistocene (2.5 MYA - 12,000 years ago) residents of California!  Here are what some of the coolest fossils were.
Mounted giant ground sloth skeleton

A full skeleton of the eight-foot-tall giant ground sloth.  The relationship between extinct South American ground sloths and the extant tree sloths was one of the most important things that influenced Charles Darwin into his Theory of Evolution, more so than the case of the Gal√°pagos finches that most textbooks cite.  During the Great American Interchange, at a time when many South American species were going extinct due to competition from animals coming down the Isthmus of Panama from North America (like Thylacosmilus), the giant ground sloths were actually able to move the other way, with remains being found even as far north as Alaska.  

The skull of Panthera atrox, the North American lion

A skull of the North American lion (Panthera atrox), as well as a skull from Smilodon, colloquially known as the "saber-toothed cat."
The skull of Smilodon

Skulls of Camelops (a type of camel); a dire wolf (Canis dirus), a significantly larger relative of the extant gray wolf; and the Teratorn, one of the members of the family Teratornithidae, a group of birds of prey that lived in North and South America, and includes the largest flying bird known, Argentavis.  Finally, there was a life-sized picture of a mammoth on the wall with a fossil tusk sticking out which was pretty cool as well!
The skull of Camelops
The skull of the dire wolf
The skull of the Teratorn

A size comparison of a mammoth and a human, myself
Now, back to the living!  Here are some more pictures of some of the really cool animals that we saw!  
The "Critically Endangered" addax (Addax nasomaculatus), native to the Sahara Desert
The "Endangered" African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), native to (you guessed it) Africa
American badger
Bighorn sheep
Burrowing owl
Dromedary camel
Sleeping fennec fox
Another sleeping fennec fox
Giant tortoises eating
Mexican wolf
Another Mexican wolf.  Despite the fact that this wolf looks like it is snarling, it actually wasn't!  I don't actually know what was going on!
A Mexican wolf running
There were also tons of lizards running around all over the place!
There was also a really cool, huge, giant train set!  Here are a bunch of pictures of it!

Incredibly detailed: the Monticello vineyards!
Incredibly detailed: Mount Rushmore!
So would I recommend The Living Desert to anyone who is going to be in the area?  You bet I would!  Not only is it an excellent zoo, it gives the visitor an interesting and often difficult-to-find view of desert life from around the world!


  1. Just featured on
    We visited the Living Desert yesterday... and love your post about it!

    1. Oh that's fantastic, I didn't even know, that's pretty exciting! And thanks so much, I'm glad you enjoyed the post!


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