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Face to face with desert creatures ... near Palm Springs.

Face to face with desert creatures . . . near Palm Springs

Prickly plants and exotic animals from the world's deserts can be seen at close range in The Living Desert in Palm Desert, 13 miles southeast of Palm Springs.

Among the animals in this reserve are a pair of Arabian oryx and a Mohrr gazelle, both endangered species. Adopted from San Diego Wild Animal Park's captive breeding program, these majestic beasts join more than 200 other desert animals, including a herd of bighorn sheep, in the 1,200-acre reserve.

A 1/4-mile, wheelchair-accessible pathway from the visitor center leads to three new desert gardens.

A Baja garden features the starkly tapered boojum tree and other flora native to the arid peninsula; a 1/3-acre cienega (fresh-water pond) should play host to migrating cranes, egrets, and great blue herons in December; and a new primitive garden includes flora from the Paleozoic era: cycads, ferns, and ginkgos. In an older Mojave garden, desert tortoises and burrowing owls coexist in an expansive new encolsure.

In all, the reserve has 6 miles of hiking trails. Weekends and holidays (this month's holiday dates are December 26 through January 1), naturalist-guided hour-long tours are offered at 9:30 and 2, and slide shows are given at 11:30, 1, and 3. Docents will present animals for 30-minute "critter close-ups' at 11 and 1:15. On holidays only, there are 1/2-hour desert wildlife programs at 10:30.

Drawings and prints of desert wildlife by artist Phoebe Thorpe are on exhibit this month. A reception for the artist will be held December 6 from 4 to 6 P.M. December 13, there's a lecture ($2) on desert bats at McCallum Hall at 7:30 P.M.

The Living Desert is at 47900 S. Portola Avenue, 1 1/2 miles from State Highway 111. Hours are 9 to 5 daily; admission is $3 for adults, free to those under 17.

Photo: Perched on finger of gloved docent, American kestrel receives visitors during weekly "critter close-up'

Photo: Tall, skinny boojum tree pokes skyward in new Baja garden

Photo: Shy pair of endangered Arabian oryx explore their new surroundings in The Living Desert near Palm Springs
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Date:Dec 1, 1984
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