Celebrating 50 Years of Adventure
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.

Press Room


Winners in each county will receive gift certificates and other prizes

Contact: Erin Scott

Sr. Marketing and Public Relations Manager

760-346-5694 x.2610

At The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Mojave Maxine, a 41-year old desert tortoise, determines the arrival of spring. Each year, students in grades K-12 from nine counties throughout Southern California are invited to predict when Mojave Maxine, will emerge from her brumation (hibernation for reptiles) and make her first appearance of 2019, indicating longer, warmer days are on the way.


Maxine and her fellow desert tortoises typically enter brumation around Thanksgiving. Their bodies know when to go to sleep based on the outside temperatures and the change in daylight hours. Sometime in the coming months, she will awaken from her long winter’s slumber and emerge from her subterranean burrow at The Living Desert. The exact date of this annual occurrence, however, is anyone’s guess.


The first entry received from each county that is closest to the exact day and time wins a $50 gift certificate, a Federal Lands Pass, a visit from a desert tortoise, Mojave Maxine t-shirts for their entire class and a $100 gift certificate for their teacher. Students from Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties are invited to participate in the contest.


“With the desert tortoise population threatened by a number of human-caused factors, Mojave Maxine plays an important role in educating people about how to better live around her species,” said Dr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation. “This annual contest allows students to learn about desert tortoises, how to help protect them, and have some fun guessing when Mojave Maxine will emerge from her burrow. It is our desert version of Groundhog Day on the East Coast!”


In 2018, more than 1,800 students submitted predictions prior to Maxine’s star-studded arrival on January 31 at 12:28 p.m. 

The guessing contest is currently open and will run until Mojave Maxine emerges from her burrow. A live video feed will be available online to watch for when Mojave Maxine appears. To enter visit 


About the Living Desert:

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 nearly 50 years. The Living Desert is located at 47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260. For more information: (760) 346-5694 or visit