Sam West

Palm Springs’ Mojave Maxine The Living Desert Zoo

If you were to visit Palm Springs’ sprawling The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens today, you’d have no chance of seeing Mojave Maxine. But she’s there. Nestled deep beneath the dust and gravel, the 45-year-old desert tortoise is right at home. And she likely won’t be coming out for a while. Feel the envy. 

While this desert tortoise is pretty much doing what desert tortoises do, Southern California waits for Mojave Maxine with anticipation. Because she not only alerts us to the oncoming warmer weather. She also sets the gauge for wild desert tortoises across the region, informing climate scientists, biologists, and environmentalists. 

Brumation Versus Hibernation
Like other desert tortoises, Mojave Maxine weathers the colder months by entering a state called brumation. It’s a bit like hibernation. Both brumation and hibernation are states of seasonal dormancy, after all. So what makes them different?

-Cold-blooded creatures undergo brumation whereas warm-blooded animals undergo hibernation.
-Brumation usually doesn’t last as long as hibernation.
-Brumating animals awaken occasionally to eat and drink whereas hibernating animals stay in their dormant state.
-Animals require less food prior to entering the dormant state of brumation than hibernation.

How to Meet Mojave Maxine

Visiting Mojave Maxine for yourself is obviously difficult at the moment. But when she wakes from her beauty sleep, you can meet her at Palm Springs’ Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. A proud nonprofit and accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Living Desert has been a staple of the Palm Springs experience since 1970. 

But for now, we’ll leave her to her slumber. After all, she carries the weight of Southern California’s seasons on her shell. And, despite the ridiculously great weather that spoils us year round, that’s a lot of responsibility for one tortoise!

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