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Press Room


Award Winning Film Spotlights Plight of this Threatened Species

Contact: Erin Scott
Sr. Marketing and Public Relations Manager
760-346-5694 x.2610

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens proudly supported the documentary ‘Tortoise in Peril,’ presented by The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the Desert Managers Group, which will premiere on KCET’s Earth Focus, Wednesday, April 18 at 8:30 p.m. and continue to run in their programming schedule. The documentary can also be seen on DIRECT TV and DISH Networks starting Thursday, April 19 at 9 p.m.

‘Tortoise in Peril’ spotlights the plight of the desert tortoise, a threatened species that suffers from habitat destruction, diseases and other factors that have reduced their numbers by up to 90 percent. In addition, flocks of ravens, which are heavily subsidized by human trash, prey on baby tortoises, reducing the odds of tortoise survival as a species. This documentary poignantly explores that impact, pointing out how people can help address this problem by simple actions like covering and properly disposing of their trash.

The 30-minute film has won numerous awards including Best Wildlife Film at Topanga Film Festival, Winner Environmental Films at Houston International Film Festival, and Best Short Film at Back to Nature Film Festival. It also has been officially selected for the Toronto International Film & Video Festival, New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, and Idyllwild International Film Festival.

In addition to financially supporting this documentary as an educational tool, The Living Desert recently launched a campaign to bring awareness to the issues facing the desert tortoise. The Zoo was awarded a two-year $100,000 grant for its efforts in this field.

“Our primary goals are to create an educational outreach campaign that can be used by any and all interested parties, working to help promote desert tortoise conservation in the Mojave Desert,” said Dr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation at The Living Desert. “Specifically we are targeting the general public, businesses and special interested groups who, with just a few small actions, can help save tortoises.”

In January 2018, The Living Desert launched its “Time to Talk Trash” campaign to assist people in making the connection that open trash containers, whether at home or at a business, provide a food source for ravens. The campaign includes three billboards along highways in the high desert, as well as stickers to be used by The Living Desert and their partners. Bumper stickers were also distributed to groups such as off highway vehicle users that often recreate in open desert areas, home to tortoise populations.

“While ravens are a natural part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, their numbers have increased 1,500% over the past three decades causing a huge imbalance in the ecosystem - and the desert tortoise is suffering because of this,” said Dr. Danoff-Burg. “Actions as simple as covering our trash will mean fewer ravens, and that will hopefully mean more desert tortoises.”

For more information about The Living Desert and desert tortoise conservation efforts, visit or call (760) 346-5694.

About The Living Desert:
The Living Desert is an AZA-accredited zoo and gardens that is dedicated to desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation. It is a family-friendly place to explore nature and create meaningful experiences for guests that are remembered for a lifetime. For more information: (760) 346-5694 or visit The Living Desert is located at: 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA 92260.