The Living Desert

Wild Dog Pups Thriving at Living Desert

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A litter of six African Wild Dog pups born on April 24 at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens got their first well-baby exam in late May and were proclaimed healthy and thriving.

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African-wild-dog-puppy_5.24.19_The Living DesertPhoto Credit: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The pups, who represent the first litter for mom Beatrix and dad Kiraka, include five males and one female. This exam was the first time any of the zoo staff interacted directly with the pups. The African Wild Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, recommends using a hands-off approach to allow for natural bonding and development of the pups.

Since birth, the pups have opened their eyes and become more coordinated. At their exam, each weighed between four and five pounds. They’ll soon begin weaning and will start nibbling on meat.  Any day now, the pups will start to venture out of their den and be visible to guests.

“We are so happy to learn that the puppies are healthy,” said Allen Monroe, President and CEO of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. “Beatrix has done an outstanding job caring for her puppies, and we are excited to continue watching them grow.”

Following the well-baby exam, the puppies were returned to the den, rubbed with dirt to eliminate the human smell, and then reunited with their mom. The animal care and veterinary teams will continue to closely monitor the family’s activity through den cameras which allow Beatrix and the puppies plenty of space, comfort, and security. 

Currently listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), fewer than 5,000 African Wild Dogs remain on the African continent. As one of the most endangered African carnivores, African Wild Dog populations are in decline due to human-wildlife conflict, habitat destruction and canine diseases, like distemper and rabies. The Living Desert supports specific African Wild Dog conservation projects that work to bolster wild populations.

See more photos of the pups below.

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Litter of Four Elusive Sand Cat Kittens Born

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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is delighted to announce the birth of four Sand Cat kittens. This is the inaugural birth in the Zoo’s Desert Carnivore Conservation Center, and is also the first sand cat birth at the Zoo since 2004.

The four kittens were born on March 25 to mother, Nadya, and father, Napoleon. Since their birth, the Zoo has been monitoring the kittens’ health and development through a webcam installed in their den box. On April 23, a well-baby exam was performed on the kittens, and they are progressing as expected. The two male kittens and two female kittens each weigh about 300-340 grams (approximately 10-12 ounces).

“I’m thrilled with how the kittens are developing,” said Dr. Andrea Goodnight, Head Veterinarian. “They are becoming more adventurous each day and will soon begin exploring the areas outside their den box. Sand Cat kittens are born with their eyes closed and weigh approximately one ounce at birth. At two weeks their eyes begin opening and by four weeks they have begun to walk and explore areas inside and near their den. By eight weeks they have weaned and are eating food and are independent from their mother.”

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Sand cat kitten weight_The Living Desert_4.23.19

Dr. Goodnight Head Veterinarian_The Living Desert_4.23.19Photo Credits: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Sand Cats are native to Northern Africa and southwestern and central Asia. They have thick fur that insulates them from the cold, heat, and blowing sand. Mostly solitary animals, except during breeding, Sand Cats have an average litter of four kittens.

“This is a historic birth for us,” said RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Care at The Living Desert. “Due to their very elusive nature and excellent desert camouflage, very little is known about Sand Cats, including their populations in the wild. We are proud to be participating in species conservation efforts that support these special felines.”

The Desert Carnivore Conservation Center was completed in March 2016 with the goal of expanding The Living Desert’s focused conservation efforts for small desert carnivores, more specifically small desert cats and foxes. The center is located behind-the-scenes, allowing the animals to have an undisturbed and quite area for breeding, which comes at the recommendation of the Species Survival Plans (SSP). The SSPs are cooperatively managed programs that ensures genetic and population sustainability.

“I am very excited to share this wonderful news,” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO. “The Desert Carnivore Conservation Center gives The Living Desert an opportunity to study the unique reproductive physiology of these animals to help support wild populations.”

The Sand Cats and their kittens will remain in the behind-the scenes Desert Carnivore Conservation Center.


Female Giraffe Born on First Day of Spring

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In the early morning hours of the first day of spring, March 20, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens welcomed a female Giraffe calf to the herd. Born to mother, Dadisi, and father, Hesabu, the female calf weighed in at 149.6 pounds (68kg) and stood at 6 feet 1 inch tall.

“We are thrilled to share the news of this new addition. Mother and calf are doing very well and are currently bonding behind-the-scenes,” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO of The Living Desert. “Guests will have the opportunity to see mother and calf in the near future and I know they will be delighted when they see the pair.”

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3_BABYGIRAFFE_THELIVINGDESERT(4)Photo Credits: The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens

This is the eighth calf for mom, Dadisi, who is 18 years old and has lived at The Living Desert since 2002. This is her third female calf. Dadisi is also mom to 18-month-old, Shellie Muujiza. This is the tenth calf for father, Hesabu, who passed away in December of 2018 after a rapid decline in his health. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, in Palm Desert, CA, is home to a herd of nine Giraffe: five males and four females.

“The Living Desert fondly remembers Hesabu with the birth of this calf,” said RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Care at The Living Desert. “Hesabu’s legacy will continue to live on through his offspring, helping to build connections with our guests and fostering appreciation for the natural world.”

“Dadisi and her calf have bonded and are doing very well. The well-baby exam showed that all her vitals are within the normal range and she is progressing as expected,” said Dr. Andrea Goodnight, Head Veterinarian at The Living Desert. “She is tall, healthy and absolutely adorable.”

Giraffe gestation is about 15 months. The calf will nurse for nine to 12 months, and begin eating foliage around two months old. The Giraffe will double her size in the first year of her life. Giraffe have their own individual spot-like markings and no two have the same pattern, similar to humans’ unique fingerprints.

Currently listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as “Vulnerable”, Giraffe populations have declined up to 40% over the last 30 years. There are fewer than 98,000 Giraffe in the wild. Native to southern and eastern Africa, major threats to their population is habitat loss and fragmentation, civil unrest, and ecological changes.


Miraculous Giraffe Calf Born at Living Desert Zoo

Shellie Giraffe Calf Born at TLD

On August 27, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens welcomed a female Giraffe calf to their herd. Born to mother, Dadisi, and father, Hesabu, the calf weighed in at 143 pounds and stood 5 feet 11 inches tall.

The calf was given the official name “Shellie Muujiza”. Through a generous gift of $50,000 by long-time supporter Harold Matzner, Shellie Muujiza was named in honor of Harold’s life partner, Shellie Reade. And true to the Giraffe’s heritage, Muujiza mean ‘miracle’ in Swahili.

“We are excited to share the joyous news of our new addition, Shellie. Mother and calf are doing very well and guests have the thrilling opportunity to see them both beginning today,” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO of The Living Desert. “While we continue to mourn the loss of Pona, our male Giraffe who suddenly passed away in August, we find comfort in the new life that this Giraffe calf brings to The Living Desert.”

Giraffe Calf  born August 27 at The Living DesertPhoto Credits: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

This is the seventh calf for mom, Dadisi, and ninth calf for father, Hesabu. Dadisi is 16 years old and has lived at The Living Desert since 2002; this is her second female calf. Hesabu is 16 years old and has lived at The Living Desert since 2002. The Living Desert is home to a herd of eight giraffe, five males and three females.

“I am proud to support The Living Desert and their important Giraffe conservation efforts,” said Matzner, who also named baby Harold, the Giraffe born at The Living Desert on April 28, 2017. “It’s a true pleasure to name two Giraffe in their magnificent herd.”

“Dadisi and her calf have bonded and are doing very well. The well-baby exam showed that all her vitals are within the normal range and she is progressing as expected,” said RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Programs at The Living Desert. “We are grateful for Mr. Matzner’s continued generosity and support of our giraffe herd. We look forward to seeing baby Harold and baby Shellie together on the savannah habitat.”

Giraffe gestation is about 15 months. The calf will now nurse for nine to 12 months, and begin eating foliage at about four months. During the first year of her life, she will have doubled her size. Giraffe have their own individual spot-like markings and no two giraffe have the same pattern, similar to humans’ unique fingerprints.

Currently listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as “Vulnerable”, Giraffe populations have declined up to 40% over the last 30 years. There are fewer than 98,000 giraffe in the wild. Native to southern and eastern Africa, major threats to giraffe population is habitat loss and fragmentation, civil unrest, and ecological changes.

Visitors can get up-close and personal with these majestic animals by participating in the Giraffe feedings from 9:00 a.m. to noon daily. For more information, visit www.LivingDesert.org .


The Living Desert Debuts Bighorn Lamb

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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is excited to announce the birth of a Bighorn lamb. The female was born February 18 and weighed in at 3.9 kilograms at her newborn wellness check. Zoo officials say both mother and baby are doing well.

“We are thrilled with the birth of this Bighorn lamb, as they are native to our area and play an important, iconic role in our desert habitat,” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO of The Living Desert. “The Living Desert participates with other zoos from around the country in the Bighorn Sheep Species Survival Plan (SSP) and we are proud of our participation in the efforts to preserve this endangered species.”

The lamb’s father is five-years-old Dante who sired seven lambs at the San Diego Wild Animal Park prior to arriving at The Living Desert in the summer of 2014. The mother, Margo, is almost eight-years-old and also came to The Living Desert from the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 2009.

Bighorn lambs are born with soft, woolly, light-colored coats and small horn buds. Within a day, a lamb can walk and climb as well as its mother. A lamb will stay with its mother for the first year of its life.

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3_Bighorn Lamb Feb 2016 - 2Photo Credits: The Living Desert

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) are one of two species of mountain sheep in North America. They range in color from light brown to grayish or dark brown, and have a white rump and lining on the backs of all four legs. Bighorn Sheep get their name from the large, curved horns on the males, or rams. They are legendary for their ability to climb high, steep, rocky mountain areas.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were between 1.5 million to two million Bighorn Sheep in North America. Today, there are less than 70,000.

The SSP Programs significantly contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, veterinary care for wildlife disease issues, establishment of assurance populations, and many other species-focused conservation efforts.

“As the national SSP Coordinator for the Bighorn Sheep, I am so excited to welcome this lamb. She will help provide genetic diversity to our managed populations,” said Maureen McCarty, The Living Desert’s Special Projects Coordinator and the Bighorn Sheep SSP Coordinator.

The new lamb is currently on exhibit with the herd at The Living Desert.

The Living Desert is an AZA-accredited zoo and gardens, located in Palm Desert, California, that is dedicated to conservation and education. It is a family-friendly place to explore nature and create meaningful experiences for visitors that are remembered for a lifetime. For more information visit: www.LivingDesert.org.


It’s All About that Pumpkin

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Pumpkins are everywhere, this time of year! They make great pies, Jack-O-Lanterns, and pretty awesome enrichment toys for zoo animals. Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!

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Photo Credits: Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Image 1: African Lion Cub); Amiee Stubbs Photography (Image 2: "Charlie" the Porcupine at Nashville Zoo); Lincoln Children's Zoo (Image 3: "Lincoln" the Red Panda); ZooAmerica (Image 4: "Rainier" the Mountain Lion); Zoo Vienna Schönbrunn (Image 5: Elephants); Sue Ogrocki (Images 6-Gorilla,7-Red River Hogs,10-Galapagos Tortoise at Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens); Minnesota Zoo (Image 8: Lynx); The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (Image 9: Meerkats)

More great pumpkin pics below the fold!

Continue reading "It’s All About that Pumpkin" »


Ringtail Cubs Debut at The Living Desert

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Two ringtails born June 12 at The Living Desert in California recently made their debut.  Because ringtails are nocturnal creatures, the staff shows off the babies during twice daily hand feedings, giving guests a better chance to see the babies.

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Photo Credit:  Bert Buxbaum

The two cubs, one male and one female, we born to parents Abe and Penelope.  They have not yet been named.

Also called ring-tailed cats, ringtails are closely related to raccoons.  They are native to the southern central plains and desert Southwest in the United States and are found throughout Mexico.  Like raccoons, ringtails are omnivorous, feeding on mice, frogs, toads, snakes, berries, and insects.   

Because of their nocturnal habits and shyness toward humans, ringtails are not commonly seen in the wild.  Ringtails are expert climbers, with ankles that can rotate 180 degrees to allow headfirst descents from trees.