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Celebrating 50 Years of Adventure
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 nearly 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.
Mike Chedester Director of Education
Mike Chedester, Director of Education.
Dr. James Danoff-Burg Director of Conservation
Dr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation.
Jan Hawkins Director of Development
Jan Hawkins, Director of Development.
Dwight Middendorf Director of Finance
Dwight Middendorf, Director of Finance.
Mark Miller Director of Park Services
Brian Sawicki Director of Park Design, Maintenance and Gardens
Brian Sawicki, Director of Park Design, Maintenance and Gardens.
Terrie Terrell Director of Human Resources
Terrie Terrell, Director of Human Resources.

Board of Trustees

Bill Appel * Chairman
Craig McCollam * Treasurer
Sandra Cooper Woodson * Secretary
Allen Monroe * President/CEO & Assistant Secretary
Jon-Marc BlalockSusan E. Cooper *Melinda DrickeyMarylynn GladsteinPatti Grundhofer *
Candace HolzgrafeH. Earl Hoover IISuz HuntSis JacksonMichael Kiner *
Janet Lanterman *Jaishri MehtaPeter ScheerMichael SchreterDick Shalhoub *
Bill SimpkinsBJ SkillingPhillip K. Smith, Jr. *Roger Snoble *Mary Lou Solomon
Larry Spicer *Sam SpinelloNancy L. StegehuisVan Tanner *

* Board of Directors

Karen Sausman President Emerita
Curt Ealy | Sherman A. Smith Trustee Emeritus/Emerita
Mary O. Cone Secretary Emerita
Brian S. Harnik Legal Counsel


Mayor Ty Peabody City of Indian Wells
Mayor Gina Nestande and Councilman Sabby Jonathan City of Palm Desert
Councilman Ted Weill City of Rancho Mirage
Jim Barrett and Anthony Bianco Coachella Valley Water District
Wayne Connor Wayne Connor Associates
Scott White and Davis Meyer Greater Palm Springs CVB
  • Bill Powers
  • Judy Vossler
  • Carol Wright
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