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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.

Monday Minute

International Desert Conservation Summit

James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation October 18, 2021

What if you could hear from almost a dozen globally leading conservationists committed to restoring rhinos and countering the threats that they face? Wouldn’t hearing them tell their stories be a transformative experience?

Well, this November 20th that unique opportunity will be possible! As you may know, we are hosting our second-ever International Desert Conservation Summit (IDCS) virtually through The Living Desert. Our theme will focus on Restoring Rhinos in Africa. We will have 10 of the world’s leading rhino conservationists online sharing the successes and challenges that they have had to cope with during their work conserving rhinos in Africa. The IDCS will occur one week since our brand-new Rhino Savanna will have opened.

Saturday at The Summit, we will have a full day of inspirational presentations from our conservationists with ample time for questions and discussion. This will ensure that we are all well-informed about how we can directly help save rhinos at home as well as around the world.

At lunch on Saturday, the first ever Living Desert Conservation Hero Awards will be presented to our conservationists, along with a hefty honorarium to further develop their successful work in Africa to help restore rhinos. These honors will be presented during a lunchtime virtual session with the conservationists.

Our speakers will be coming from South Africa, Kenya, and the United States. Our lineup will start with Dr. Susie Ellis who led the International Rhino Fund for almost 20 years. Four people will speak from the front lines caring for rhinos in the field: Dr. Will Fowlds from Medivets who has single handedly trained many dozens of veterinarians who nurse rhinos back to health, Karen Odendaal of the Zululand Rhino Orphanage who cares for orphaned rhino calves until they can be released back into the wild, Craig Spencer who founded the immensely effective, all-women Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit, and Samuel Mutisya of Ol Pejeta Conservancy who manages and protects the largest single population of black rhinos in Kenya.

We will have two leaders in community based conservation and education: Lewyn Maefala of the Bush Babies Environmental Education Program who has transformed entire communities to be more receptive to conservation and Lindy Sutherland of Kareiga Foundation who has effectively integrated conservation into the cultures of local communities. I’ll be speaking about the vital community-based conservation research that we have done to benefit rhino conservation across Africa. Last, our own RoxAnna Breitigan will talk about the important work that zoos do to create an assurance population of rhinos around the world!

Check out for more information and to register for this great opportunity. I hope that you are as excited to be a part of this fantastic weekend as we are to create it here at The Living Desert!

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