The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit, accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit, accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

About Us

Our Mission

Desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit, accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ensuring the highest standards of all aspects of animal care, education, conservation, public service, and operations. The Zoo is active in conservation research, habitat protection, breeding programs and education initiatives around the world, as well as in its own community. The Zoo has been a top attraction in the Palm Springs area for more than 50 years.

Our History

The Living Desert was established in 1970 by several trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum who foresaw the impact that resort development would have on their local desert ecosystem. This foresight led to an interpretive nature trail and preserve in Palm Desert. Among the trustees was Philip L. Boyd who also founded the Riverside campus of the University of California and the Deep Canyon Research Station in Palm Desert. Among his first tasks was to hire a resident naturalist. This person turned out to be a young woman with energy, intelligence and ambition, as well as experience as a zoo keeper and park ranger, plus graduate work in wildlife biology.

Karen Sausman was President and CEO of The Living Desert for forty years. The vision that built The Living Desert and the love of the desert shared by Phillip Boyd, Karen Sausman, our members, volunteers, staff, trustees, and friends, will be carried forward by our current President/CEO, Allen Monroe.

For over five decades, The Living Desert has been engaged in the important work of preserving, conserving and interpreting the desert and all its varied plant and animal life. Even as we take immense pride in our accomplishments over the last 50 years, we remain as dedicated as ever to the goals that initially inspired us when we first began operations in March of 1970.

Photo of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens grounds before construction.

Executive Leadership

Allen Monroe President & CEO
Allen Monroe, President/CEO.
RoxAnna Breitigan Director of Animal Care
RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Care.
Dr. James Danoff-Burg Director of Conservation
Dr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation.
Dwight Middendorf Director of Finance
Dwight Middendorf, Director of Finance.
Brian Sawicki Director of Park Design, Maintenance & Gardens
Brian Sawicki, Director of Park Design, Maintenance and Gardens.
Terrie Terrell Director of Human Resources
Terrie Terrell, Director of Human Resources.
Dr. Anna Young Director of Education Engagement
Dr. Anna Young photo

Board of Trustees

Bill Appel* Chairman
Craig McCollam* Treasurer
Sandra Cooper Woodson* Secretary
Allen Monroe * President & CEO and Assistant Secretary
Jon-Marc Blalock*Deborah Chapman*Marylynn GladsteinJim GouldPatti Grundhofer
Candace Holzgrafe*H. Earl Hoover IISuz HuntMichael KinerJaishri Mehta
Jneil NelsonPeter ScheerMichael M. SchreterDick ShalhoubSally Simonds
Bill SimpkinsBJ SkillingPhillip K. Smith, Jr. *Roger SnobleMary Lou Solomon
Larry SpicerSam SpinelloNancy L. Stegehuis*Van Tanner

* Board of Directors

Karen Sausman President Emerita
Curt Ealy Trustee Emeritus
Brian S. Harnik | Roemer & Harnik, LLP Legal Counsel


City of Indian Wells Mayor Richard Balocco
City of Palm Desert Mayor Kathleen Kelly and Councilman Sabby Jonathan
City of Rancho Mirage Councilman Ted Weill
Coachella Valley Water District Jim Barrett and Anthony Bianco
Wayne Connor Associates Wayne Connor
Greater Palm Springs CVB Scott White and Davis Meyer
  • Judy Vossler
  • Carol Wright
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