Skip to main content
All non-member Zoo tickets must be pre-purchased online or at the onsite kiosks.

Today’s Hours: 7:00am – 1:30pm

The Living Desert

9-Year-Old Conservationist’s Goal of Saving The Desert Tortoise

After experiencing the wonders of desert wildlife on a field trip to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, nine-year-old Leighton felt a calling to make a difference.

It began when she heard how the desert tortoise, California’s state reptile, faces serious threats such as predators like the common raven, climate change, habitat fragmentation, and human infrastructure encroachment. This led Leighton to take action in her community. She hand-wrote and posted signs in her neighborhood to raise awareness about desert tortoise conservation and the importance of proper trash disposal to limit resources for ravens.

Moved by Leighton’s initiative, The Living Desert set up a meeting for Leighton with the Zoo’s Lead Conservation Biologist, Lou Thomas, a leader of the tortoise headstarting program. During the meeting, Lou fondly reminisced about her own childhood visits to the Zoo and how she shared a passion similar to Leighton.

Leighton’s story serves as a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating the impact that one individual, regardless of age, can have on environmental conservation. Every small action adds up to a big change. Join Leighton in making a difference.

Learn more about Leighton’s story here.

Share it

ticket icon

Ticket Prices

Tickets must be purchased in advance in order to maximize your time for fun!

Age and Prices


(General Admission, Ages 18+)



(General Admission, Ages 3 – 17)


Military Discount

(Active & Retired)