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

Press Room



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

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is proud to announce that its Director of Conservation, Dr. James Danoff-Burg, has been appointed as the leader of the Vaquita Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) Species Program.

Initiated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the SAFE program, is an outreach plan that focuses the collective expertise of all accredited zoos and aquariums to leverage their large audiences, including members, partners, donors, international conservation collaborators, staff and visitors, to help save species. Participants in the SAFE program help identify threats, develop action plans, raise new resources and engage the public. AZA SAFE provides a new approach for collaborative conservation – a one-plan approach with dedicated conservationists working together to save a species and prioritize the needs.

The vaquita, the world’s smallest marine mammal and native to the Gulf of California, is also the most endangered marine animal. There are fewer than 30 left, and without immediate help, they will go extinct. Sometimes called the “panda of the sea” because of their coloration, the vaquita are being accidentally and illegally trapped in fishing gillnets to the point of extinction. The Living Desert has been instrumental in helping bring attention to their plight.

“There has been a global interest in this unique and critically endangered species and I am very proud to help these efforts by AZA zoos and aquariums,” said Danoff-Burg. “I look forward to continuing our work and finding ways to assist the vanishing vaquita and its larger ecoregion.”

In 2017, Vaquita CPR (an organization formed to help save the vaquita), with a team of 90 experts from nine countries attempted to rescue the remaining vaquita and bring them to a temporary sanctuary in order to increase their population. Unfortunately, the rescue plan was suspended because the vaquita reacted poorly to being in a new environment. Despite the challenges, countless organizations continue to fight to save the porpoise, including The Living Desert.

“The Living Desert continues to work urgently to help save the vaquita from extinction,” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO of The Living Desert. “With Dr. Danoff-Burg as the lead for the SAFE program, we have taken on an even larger role and will continue to partner with other conservation organizations around the country to raise funds and assist in the effort to save them. We encourage the public to visit The Living Desert to learn more about these endangered porpoises and help do their part to save the vaquita from extinction.”

The Living Desert is open daily 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information call (760) 346-5694 or visit

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.