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The Future of The Living Desert

The Next Evolution

On May 3, 2017, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the first phase of our new adventure, Crossroads of Conservation – transforming the visitors’ entrance to the park with a new welcome plaza and visitor services. We have embarked upon an ambitious capital campaign, The Pride of the Desert, to raise the $30 million required to transform the park: creating a better visitor experience, deepening our commitment to the conservation of endangered African species, and connecting with our community. Generous leadership gifts from capital campaign co-chairs, Patti & Jack Grundhofer of $3 million, and honorary co-chairs, Connie & Bob Lurie of $1 million, have enabled The Living Desert to begin the transformative Crossroads of Conservation project.

Honorary Capital Campaign Chairwoman Connie Lurie, Chairman of the Board Larry Spicer, and President/CEO Allen Monroe were joined by government and civic leaders, volunteers and staff, and enthusiastic supporters of The Living Desert in putting shovels in the ground. They were assisted by some of the most industrious zoo residents: Teluk, a New Guinea singing dog and Pharaoh, a fennec fox, who put their natural digging talents in service to the new Crossroads of Conservation.

Crossroads of Conservation will enable The Living Desert to meet our growing needs. The original entrance and admissions plaza were built when park attendance was less than 10,000 guests annually. With the continued growth of the Coachella Valley, from residents and visitors, and the importance and impact of our mission, we anticipate more than 500,000 guests annually by 2020. So, the time has come to invest and build a new gateway to The Living Desert.

Crossroads of Conservation

In addition to a beautiful and dramatic design featuring a tower aligned directly with Bighorn Mountain, the new entrance plaza will provide greater guest amenities and conveniences. It will be closer to the main section of the parking lot and will have drop-off lanes to make it more accessible. Members will have their own express entrance and ticket-buying will be more streamlined. A new gift shop, kiosks for refreshments, and membership and guest services will be located at convenient entry points.

The new welcome plaza will provide our guests an exciting introduction to the depth and breadth of The Living Desert. Inside, guests will be greeted by animals and their keepers, by informed and engaging volunteer conservation ambassadors, and by a digital wall highlighting the day’s events, news of note, and our conservation stories. A living testament to the care and generosity of our donors will take root in the heart of the park: the Living Legacy Endowment Garden. The garden will be a very special place, representing The Living Desert’s origin as a botanic garden preserving the tough and tender plants of the desert, and the sustaining generosity of our donors.

Construction on Crossroads of Conservation begins this summer and work will proceed year-round. We anticipate a grand opening of the new entrance and welcome plaza in the Fall of 2018. Meanwhile, the campaign to raise the $30 million required to complete construction of expansive new habitats and strengthen our capacity as a leader in conservation continues. We hope you will take your part.

For more information and updates, please contact Jan Hawkins, Director of Development, at 760.346.1483 or or Eileen Gill, Development Officer – Major and Planned Gifts, at 760.340.5865 or

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