Foxpaws Spring 2021

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foxpaws SPRING







W onde rfull y Wild

board of trustees

foxpaws SPRING 2021

Chairman: Treasurer: Secretary:

Bill Appel * Craig McCollam * Sandra Cooper Woodson *

President/CEO & Assistant Secretary:

Allen Monroe *

Jon-Marc Blalock * Deborah Chapman Susan E. Cooper Melinda Drickey Marylynn Gladstein Jim Gould Patti Grundhofer Candace Holzgrafe * H. Earl Hoover II Suz Hunt Sis Jackson Michael Kiner * Jaishri Mehta Peter Scheer Michael Schreter Dick Shalhoub Sally Simonds Bill Simpkins BJ Skilling Phillip K. Smith, Jr. * Roger Snoble *

Mary Lou Solomon Larry Spicer Sam Spinello Nancy L. Stegehuis * Van Tanner * * Board of Directors PRESIDENT EMERITA Karen Sausman TRUSTEE EMERITUS Curt Ealy Sherman A. Smith LEGAL COUNSEL Brian S. Harnik Roemer & Harnik, LLP

table of contents FEATURES 03 04




From the President’s Desk Six Questions About Climate Change…Answered The Living Desert Adapts with Virtual Education Programs The Rhino Savanna: A Natural Habitat

Donor Spotlight: The Polizzi Family


Ways to Give

WHAT’S NEW 16 ZooNews 18 WildFile


City of Indian Wells – Mayor Richard Balocco City of Palm Desert – Mayor Kathleen Kelly and Councilman Sabby Jonathan


City of Rancho Mirage – Mayor Pro Tem Ted Weill

Project Manager - Erin Scott

Coachella Valley Water District – Jim Barrett and Anthony Bianco

Designer - Olivia Luna

Wayne Connor Associates – Wayne Connor


Greater Palm Springs CVB – Scott White and Davis Meyer

RoxAnna Breitigan Christian Burrell Amy Crabb Dr. James Danoff-Burg May Guzman

Judy Vossler Carol Wright

Jan Hawkins Allen Monroe Alex Ocañas Elise Shtayyeh Angela Woods

Allen Monroe, President/CEO

Ruby Joyce Thompson

FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK I recently had the opportunity to bring my

granddaughter to The Living Desert for the first time. Ruby Joyce is 17 months of wide-eyed wonder and exploration. It was fun to see things through her eyes as each new animal encounter builds on establishing a connection with nature. It was also sad to think of all the experiences with nature she might never have. I thought of naturalist David Attenborough’s quote, “Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” I read a lot of picture books to Ruby, but it is no substitute for seeing the real thing. As a society, there are many things we are dealing with right now. Some of it is pressing and immediate but there are issues just out of sight, over the horizon, that are more important and will have implications not just for decades but potentially for generations to come. Human population growth is using the resources of our planet at a rate that is not sustainable and

the result is the mass extinction of thousands of species and the altering of our planet on which we depend. We hear about the rain forest being cut down and converted to cattle ranches, the loss of arctic ice or the destruction of coral reefs from global warming but because it is not happening in our backyard it does not demand immediate attention and action. Conservation organizations like The Living Desert have been quietly sounding the warning trumpet for decades to no avail. Our voices are lost to the winds of consumerism and economic expansion. But we cannot give up. There is still time to change the trajectory of our civilization. We must ask elected officials to focus our individual efforts and swing the tide back in our favor. I leave you with another quote from David Attenborough, “If my grandchildren were to look at me and say, ‘You were aware species were disappearing and you did nothing, you said nothing’, that I think is culpable.”

Allen Monroe, President/CEO foxpaws |



six questions

about climate change… answered By Allen Monroe, President/CEO

We all have a lot on our plates right now. Uncertainties about immediate problems like the

COVID-19 pandemic and the economic future occupy our thoughts. But there is another issue approaching us that will have far greater consequences for our future livelihood. Although climate change gets caught up in political agendas, the science is clear. If we want the benefits of a natural world for our kids and grandkids that society has enjoyed for the last century, the science has to be accepted, a plan of action needs to be developed, and we have to get on board with protecting this little blue marble we call home. Here is a highlight of some of the problems and the solutions we can start implementing today.

Q What causes climate change? energy from the sun strikes our planet, where some of it is absorbed and some is A Solar radiated back out into space. The chemical elements of our atmosphere act as a blanket around the planet and control the amount of heat loss. Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the chemicals that contribute to retaining heat around the earth creating the greenhouse effect. Increases in the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in higher temperatures. Because we cannot see the edge of the atmosphere, humans have little perception of its size, but it is surprisingly thin. Using a basketball dunked in water as a stand in for the Earth, our atmosphere is equivalent to the thin film of water remaining.

some infrared radiation is trapped by the earth’s atmosphere and warms it. foxpaws |


Into this thin life-nurturing layer, humans are currently releasing 110 million tons of global warming pollutants every 24 hours through the burning of fossil fuels. This impact on our atmosphere has been occurring since the 1850s with the acceleration of the industrial revolution. Although it has received more attention lately, even 100 years ago Thomas Edison remarked, “We burn up wood and coal as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.” 4

Data: U.S. Department of Energy/CDIAC


Isn’t the climate always changing? Following natural cycles, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has ranged from 180 to 300 parts per million over the last 800,000 years and the average planet temperature has gone up and down with this cycle. Over the last several decades, the carbon dioxide has increased to 415 parts per million today and at the current rate is projected to reach 600 ppm in the next 40 years. Carbon dioxide is currently

being released into the atmosphere faster than at any time in at least the last 66 million years. So yes, the climate has changed over the geological past. What is new, however, is the rate at which it is changing and the role human activity is playing to cause this change. Since the year 2001, 19 of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred. 5



11 billion

What is the role of humans on climate change? Because there are more people on the planet than ever before, our cumulative impact is magnified. The current human population is 7.7 billion and the United Nations estimates that at the end of this century there will be close to 11 billion people. The good news is that the rate of human population growth is decreasing and the population is predicted to level off by the end of this century at 11 billion. The bad news is that those additional 3.3 billion people will need houses, stores, roads, infrastructure, and the accoutrements of modern life. As Bill and Melinda Gates pointed out in their annual letter last year, that is equivalent to building an entire New York City every month for the next 40 years. We are also making the situation worse with the rapid rate of deforestation occurring around the world. When trees, which absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, are cut down, we are removing natural buffers that help stabilize atmospheric gases. And, when those trees are burned, they release massive amounts of carbon dioxide stored as biomass back into the atmosphere and accelerate global warming.

Source: National Climate Data Center/NOAA

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Data: WRI via Axios

Q What will be the impacts from climate change? the human perspective, an increase of even a few degrees in global temperatures can have a A From significant impact. With each additional increase of 1° centigrade, the atmosphere’s capacity to hold water vapor increases by 7%. This will lead to more significant storm and flooding events. Globally, floods and extreme rainfall events now occur four times more often than in 1980.

live trees remove co2


their burning releases co2


That extra heat also allows more water evaporation from the oceans and pulls moisture even more quickly from the soil, causing longer and deeper droughts. Each 1° centigrade of warming also increases lightning strikes by 1012% increasing the probability of wildfires on parched forests. As the temperature rises, so does freshwater use for people, crops, energy, industry and animals. Water scarcity already affects more than 40% of the world’s population. Glacier-fed streams originating in the Himalayan Mountains provide water to approximately one-quarter of the world’s populations. The rate of ice melt in the Himalayas has doubled since the year 2000, which leads to flooding in the short term and the risk of water shortages in the future as the glaciers decrease. Greenland, which is 3 times the size of Texas, is covered with an ice sheet 1-2 miles thick. If all that ice were to melt and flow into the ocean, sea levels around the world would rise by 24 feet. Currently, Greenland’s ice is melting 4 times faster than climate scientists originally thought, and the ice has decreased by 4,000 gigatons in the last 16 years.


Data: Westerling, et al.; Climate Central, "The Age of Western Wildfires," Fig.9, September, 2012 - Updated 2016

Q How does climate change impact wild animals and wild places? increase in temperature due to increased greenhouse gases is not limited to the Earth’s A The atmosphere. The ocean absorbs 93% of the extra heat trapped by man-made global warming pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane. Ocean temperatures have been increasing over the last several decades. While some fish populations might be able to move to cooler water, many marine communities like coral reefs cannot. The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the last 30 years.

99% of young green

sea turtles


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It might surprise you to learn that the sex of some species of reptiles is determined by the egg temperature during incubation. Instead of the normal 50/50 ratio of males to females, warmer temperatures produce more females. At the northern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, 99% of young green sea turtles are now female. Closer to home, for the critically endangered desert tortoise, incubation temperatures at 88.3° F result in equal numbers of males and females. Incubation above 91° F results in all females. To feed the increasing world population, vast areas of forested habitats and native grasslands are being converted to livestock pastures. Of all the biomass of mammals on Earth today, humans make up 36%, livestock are 60%, and wild mammals are only 4%. The same situation is true for birds, with 70% of all birds being chickens and other poultry for human consumption, while only 30% are wild bird species.


biomass of mammals on earth today

60% are livestock

36% are human 4% are wild mammals

We are in the middle of what is called the Sixth Great Extinction. On par with other geological events in the Earth’s past like the meteor impact which wiped out the dinosaurs and 75% of other life, we are currently losing an estimated 1 species every 20 minutes. Some of these are lost because of human indifference and greed, others because we have destroyed their habitat, and the remaining due to global changes in the climate. can we do today to limit climate change Q What damage to the Earth? A Can we change the unsustainable trajectory we are currently on? Of course, there is plenty to be hopeful for. We know what the problems are and the solutions are within our reach.

We need to stop the burning of fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to renewable energy. The cost per kilowatt for solar energy is now on par with fossil fuels. New battery technologies coupled with sustainable energy can transform how we power the world. Let’s provide training for shifting polluting industries, transition the economy to green jobs, and support new sustainable technologies. The rate of population growth is slowing and should plateau by the end of this century. Three factors can accelerate this trend, the universal education of women, access to birth control, and improved health care systems. Let’s stop doing the damaging stuff to our planet and protect natural habitats which can restore balance to the Earth. If we set aside major portions of all the world’s ecosystems, we can stabilize the

loss of species diversity upon which we depend for so much. So, what is stopping us from acting on this course of action? Human nature is focused on our current daily needs - getting the kids to school, what to fix for dinner, etc. Generally, we do a poor job of planning for what our needs will be years or decades from now. If we want to create a sustainable future, that must change. We must insist that government leaders around the world work cooperatively to address the problem and assist the transition of businesses from unsustainable economic models. Noted conservationist David Attenborough summed it up best, “We now have the choice to create a planet that we can all be proud of, our planet. The perfect home for ourselves and the rest of life on Earth. We have a plan, we know what to do. There is a path to sustainability. If enough people can see the path, we may just start down it in time.”



the living desert adapts with

virtual education programs By Christian Burrell, Curator of Education and Elise Shtayyeh, Education Program Coordinator

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” - Baba Dioum The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens works to fulfill our mission of conservation of the world’s desert animals and ecosystems in a variety of ways. We believe that we are most effective when we all work together. As stated in the quote by Baba Dioum, a lot of this begins with education. Without active learning about the impact human activity has on the natural world, our mission cannot be fully realized. As education has largely gone virtual these days, so have The Living Desert’s educational efforts. Today, students are learning on various digital platforms and our education team is working hard to meet students

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where they are by developing new and innovative ways to provide a variety of educational experiences and content for K-12 students. The Living Desert is proud to have launched its first virtual education program. Geared towards kindergarten students and working directly with partners Wild Nature Institute in Tanzania and the Palm Springs Unified School District, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens has created a virtual field trip based on the book, Juma the Giraffe. Written by Dr. Monica Bond, this is a touching story about a young giraffe who learns to appreciate his own uniqueness, while imparting lessons about the


natural world. The curriculum and the virtual field trip video help students learn about the unique traits of animals, as seen through the eyes of a giraffe. Storytelling is often the most impactful method for learning. Storytelling helps provide students with context while also creating meaningful and lasting connections. We believe that to accomplish our conservation mission, we need the highest quality education approaches. What better way to do so than through a story? Every child (and adult) can make connections with the protagonist in Juma’s heartwarming tale. Teaching students to find the familiar in the unfamiliar is part of what makes storytelling an integral part of our educational mission. The Living Desert is hard at work creating fun, engaging, and curriculum-specific content. Additional storytime sessions will be added for teachers and parents to access via our website, covering a wide range of ecology-based and seasonal topics. In addition to field trips and storytelling, we adapted our ZooCamp programming to accommodate a virtual format. This past summer, The Living Desert launched Virtual ZooCamp which allowed campers to engage with camp counselors and participate in activities and post-camp explorations. Transitioning the camp experience to that of a virtual setting was a challenge; however, our team was able to provide the student-learners with a chance to learn, engage, and most of all, have fun. Stay tuned for more Virtual ZooCamp opportunities.

Virtual Field Trip Hosts Christian Burrell & Elise Shtayyeh

While conservation is at the core of our mission, education will always be an important pillar to our work. Our capacity to engage with learners of all ages has not been impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we have adapted how and where we teach, moving much of our work online. Whether through ZooCamp, virtual field trips, storytelling on social media, or through our ongoing conservation efforts, The Living Desert is still actively inviting others to join us in appreciating, conserving, and protecting what we love most, the natural world.

To access the Juma the Giraffe Virtual Education Program visit us at


The Rhino Savanna: A Natural Habitat

By RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Care

If you’ve visited the zoo lately, it is obvious that construction is

well underway on Rhino Savanna—The Living Desert’s Crossroads of Conservation capital expansion project. One aspect that isn’t so obvious is the thoughtful planning that went into the design of the habitats to create the most optimal level of well-being for the animals. The new Rhino Savanna will be a multi-species habitat, which means that a variety of animals will live among each other and share the same space. The dynamic pair of black rhinos will be joined by smaller antelope species like waterbuck, klipspringer and springbok, and bird species like pelicans and vultures will also call this new area home. The new habitats will be a truly engaging environment for the species—as well as for guests’ viewing—with different feeding, water features, and individualized nooks for the animals to safely seek out shelter.

Black Rhino

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“When designing this habitat, we’ve kept the needs of the animals at the forefront. We wanted to create a dynamic home to live in, with plenty of stimulating options and safe spaces, too.” RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Care

The Rhino Savanna will incorporate both excellent animal and adaptable land management. This multi-species habitat will be flexible by allowing the space the ability to split from one enormous yard, into two yards! To suit the needs of the animals, the habitat can be sectioned off, allowing the smaller species to move freely and choose where they’d like to go. There are even planned places for animal care staff to safely train animals on habitat. One of our goals in building the Rhino Savanna is to allow these animals to make choices in their day, giving them experiences that they might encounter in their natural ranges. This benefits the animals, and engages guests who, when they visit The Living Desert, are able to witness something truly special.

The Rhino Savanna is scheduled to open in late Fall 2021. Stay tuned for more updates. 13

Georgina and Richard Polizzi

Spotlight on Supporters:

The Polizzi Family Heritage Society members Georgina and

Richard Polizzi started coming to the desert in the mid-80’s and have enjoyed seeing the growth of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens and the value it brings to the community. “People come from all over the world to experience the desert,” they explain. “The Living Desert gives visitors an up close and intimate view of all it has to offer and shares the plight of both plants and animals of our local and distant deserts.” Georgina has always had a love for animals and is a regular volunteer at the Zoo. Being behind the scenes has allowed her to see the magnitude of effort and responsibility in caring for the 500 animals that call the zoo and

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gardens home. “Our financial contributions help support the day-to-day, operational needs of the zoo,” the couple says. “The large projects are exciting, but the everyday upkeep including food, medical care, and new equipment needs, are the mainstays of maintaining what we have and critical to the survival of The Living Desert.” “We feel incredibly lucky to have The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Coachella Valley,” they say. “We have chosen to join The Heritage Society so we can help make sure it continues to be a valuable social, cultural and educational conservation organization for the next 50 years and beyond.”


ways to give: heritage society LEAVING A LEGACY SO CHERISHED VALUES LIVE ON. Those who have made their intentions

of leaving a charitable gift in their will or trust to The Living Desert are recognized as members of the Heritage Society. There is no minimum and any amount is appreciated. This commitment reflects a donor’s support for the education and conservation mission of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens at the highest level. These special supporters leave behind a legacy that supports the education of future conservationists, the dedication of species preservation, and a commitment to the ideal that humans, plants, and animals can live in harmony.

we invite you to become a heritage society member! You will leave a lasting legacy of your values. For more information or to let us know you have included The Living Desert in your deferred giving plan, contact Jan Hawkins, Director of Development, at (760) 346-1483 or email



Host Dr.James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation Engagement and Learning

THE LIVING DESERT HOSTS THE INAUGURAL INTERNATIONAL DESERT CONSERVATION SUMMIT The Living Desert hosted its inaugural International Desert Conservation Summit on Saturday, November 14, 2020. This virtual summit welcomed over 200 participants and was a unique opportunity to learn about the community-based conservation stories of eight of our partners across seven countries. The Living Desert is proud to have showcased the compelling conservation success stories from - Grevy’s Zebra Trust (Kenya) - Wild Nature Institute (giraffe in Tanzania) - Painted Dog Research Trust (Zimbabwe)

Speaker Sheila Funnell, Grevy's Zebra Trust Kenya

- Cheetah Conservation Botswana - Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit (African wildlife in South Africa) - Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project (Mexico) - Pesca ABC (vaquita in Mexico) - United States Fish and Wildlife Service (desert tortoise in Southern California) Attendees heard presentations from 11 speakers, calling in live from seven countries. Each presentation offered a live question and answer session, where attendees could actively participate in the programming. The sessions are available for the general public to view at

Speaker Rebecca Klein, Cheetah Conservation Botswana

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We look forward to hosting our second annual International Desert Conservation Summit in Fall 2021 – hopefully in person!


WILDLIGHTS – THE HOLIDAY TRADITION CONTINUES During this challenging year The Living Desert was thrilled to offer some magical holiday cheer through its signature holiday event, WildLights, presented by the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. And although the beloved event ended earlier than planned due to changes in COVID-19 precautions, the first two weeks of the event offered guests the opportunity to stroll the zoo amidst a million twinkling lights in a safe and socially-distant fashion. Photos with Santa, the Tunnel of Lights, and the Bighorn Railroad delighted guests of all ages. Our sincere gratitude to presenting sponsor H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and signature sponsor Hi-Tech Lights.

Giraffe Savanna Live Cam

WildLights 2020

NEW LIVE CAMS Ever wish you could peek into the giraffe savanna at any time of the day? What about check the construction progress of the new rhino habitat? Well, now you can. We are excited to launch our new Live Cams! Located at the giraffe savanna, rhino habitat construction site, and Australian Adventures habitat, these new Live Cams are available 24/7. Viewers even have the opportunity to snap a photo, zoom in, and steer the camera. Don’t miss this chance to get a special look at



This Fall, The Living Desert launched its Gold Star Restaurant program. The ongoing program initially recognizes the efforts of 35 local businesses in the Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms communities that demonstrate the sustainable practice of consistently closing their dumpsters to protect the local community and wildlife. Over the last 50 years, raven populations have increased 1700% around our human developments because people are inadvertently providing food, water, and nesting resources. These inflated raven populations decimate native wildlife, including the threatened and iconic desert tortoise. Open dumpsters and trash cans prove an especially reliable food source for ravens, making it difficult for tortoises to thrive. “The Gold Star Award was established as a conservation incentive to reduce the unnaturally large numbers of ravens in Southern California,� said Dr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation at The Living Desert. Gold Star Recipient

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The Living Desert honored 35 local businesses and their commitment to ensuring that their trash is covered and keeping our desert home clean, healthy, and thriving. To learn more about the Gold Star Restaurant Program and other efforts The Living Desert is leading to help the desert tortoise, visit


Support Your Zoo. Give Today. Today, we need your support more than ever. Make a donation today to our Mission Animal Care fund.

(760)346-5694 47900 Portola Ave. Palm Desert/Indian Wells 19


47900 Portola Ave. Palm Desert, CA 92260

MEMBERSHIP MATTERS We want to thank all of our new and renewing members who have supported us this past season. Year after year, your membership provides The Living Desert with a reliable and renewable source of income. You help give our animals and gardens the best possible care and help support our mission of desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation. Observing some of the world’s endangered desert plants and animals in a natural setting is truly a unique experience. In the coming season, we hope you can enjoy the many valuable member benefits that come with being a member of The Living Desert.

Not a member yet? Join today!

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