The Pride of the Desert - The Living Desert Zoo and Garden The Pride of the Desert - The Living Desert Zoo and Garden


At The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, our guests discover the wonder of wildlife that sparks a passion to care for the natural world. Guests and supporters know our work furthers the impact on global wildlife initiatives and accelerates our ability to make a difference in the world.

As The Living Desert celebrates its 50th anniversary, we are looking toward the future! Crossroads of Conservation is a three-phase capital improvement project that includes new animal habitat space, a state-of-the-art event center, and most importantly, new ways for guests to observe, interact with and learn about desert species.

The $45 million capital campaign, Pride of the Desert, began in 2016 and aims to raise the necessary funds to build the Crossroads of Conservation project. As we complete each phase, we strengthen our commitment to conservation, education, and our community.

The Living Desert invites you to join us as we work to build the Zoo of the future and expand our conservation efforts.


Phase 1

Grundhofer Welcome Plaza and Appel Gift Shop - Now Open!

It’s time to stretch our horizons. The Coachella Valley is growing and so is our reach. Our guests look for exceptional animal care and natural habitats, increased species conservation efforts, and more conservation education. To build our Zoo of the future, we are making investments in three key areas: capacity, engagement, and conservation. Expanding our capacity includes modernizing and upgrading the guest experience to make a visit to The Living Desert the best day ever!

The first phase of this exciting adventure– Crossroads of Conservation – began with building a brand-new welcome entrance to our park, which opened to the public November 2018. The Patti and Jack Grundhofer Welcome Plaza greeted more than 500,000 guests this past season. Our admissions center now provides new conveniences and amenities, such as expedited ticketing, electronic ticketing kiosks, and premium guest services. Visitors are met by animal encounters, informed and engaged volunteer conservation ambassadors, a shaded and tranquil garden area, and integrated technologies to guide and inspire people of all ages. The new Suzan and Bill Appel Gift Shop offers an expanded selection of gift, specialty, and souvenir items.

Project Cost: $10 million

Completed: On Time and Under Budget

Opened: November 2018

Phase 1 - Plaza and Appel Gift Shop

Phase 2

Expansive Habitats for Rhinos and Other African Species

To meet our guests’ expectations for deeper engagement and offer unique wildlife experiences, we will expand our commitment to world-wide conservation by introducing new African species into our care.

This chapter begins by welcoming a recommended breeding pair of African black rhinos into a new expansive multi-species habitat. There are fewer than 5,000 of these magnificent animals remaining in their natural range and the offspring of this pairing will add to the world’s insurance population for this critically endangered species. Strategically placed viewing areas will put guests eye-to-eye with these intelligent and social animals, awakening a connection with nature to inspire future agents of conservation.

Rhino Status: Critically Endangered

Financial Commitment Required: $17 million

Expected Groundbreaking: August 2020

Anticipated Opening: November 2021

Phase 2 - Expansive Habitats for Rhinos and Other African Species

Phase 3

Lion Savanna and Special Event Center

The final phase will bring guests even closer to nature. A spectacular Lion Savannah will feature a spacious habitat, providing a dramatic introduction to this species’ prowess and movement. With only 20,000 lions left in their natural ranges, this critically endangered species' survival depends on an understanding of and support for its world-wide conservation.

This one-of-a-kind lion habitat will be adjacent to a truly unique special events center, supported in part by a generous gift from Connie and Bob Lurie, for Zoo, private and corporate events. The focal point of the events center will be a 180 degree wall of glass looking directly into the lions’ den. The remarkable space will accommodate up to 500 guests for dining and provide an outstanding view of our pride of lions – truly The Pride of the Desert!

Lion Status: Critically Endangered

Financial Commitment Required: $20 million

Expected Groundbreaking: 2022

Anticipated Opening: 2024

Phase 3 - Lion Savanna and Special Event Center

Naming Opportunities – Be Part of Our Story

We invite you to publicly show your commitment to the mission of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens by naming a feature of the Crossroads of Conservation project. These leadership opportunities range from $50,000 to $10 million.

Thank You

  • to our current Pride Members who have chosen a naming opportunity.
  • Patti and Jack Grundhofer Plaza
  • Suzan and Bill Appel Gift Shop
  • Connie and Bob Lurie Event Center

The Pride

  • Thank you to our Pride members!
  • Patti and Jack Grundhofer
  • Suzan and Bill Appel
  • Connie and Bob Lurie
  • City of Palm Desert

your opportunity

  • Lion Savannah Habitat
  • Lion Crossing Bridge
  • Crossroads of Conservation Interior Plaza
  • Rhino Savannah
  • Digital Visitor Center
  • Lion Experience Pavilion
  • Hyena Habitat
  • Lion Enrichment Experience
  • Rhino Overlook
  • Animals of the Savannah Habitat
  • Guest Services Building
  • Main Shuttle Station
  • Lion Viewing Windows
  • Keeper Chat Plaza
  • Donor Recognition Wall

Call (760) 340-5865 or email to schedule your private tour to see what we have accomplished and how you can be a part of the future of The Living Desert.


To learn more about The Living Desert's new plans for people, plants, and animals, and to get a sneak peek at the Zoo of the future, call Jan Hawkins, Director of Development at 760-346-1483 or email

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