heather down living desert

Wild at Heart

Luis Cabrera Attractions, Current Guide

heather down living desert
Coachella Valley native Heather Down returned to the desert for the chance to work at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

How did you become interested in wildlife?

My passion for animals developed right here in the Coachella Valley by discovering desert life while playing in the Palm Springs wash with my big brothers. My career formally began at the marine mammal physiology laboratory at University of California, Santa Cruz. After working around the country — from Alaska to Oklahoma and Florida — it was the opportunity to work at The Living Desert that brought me back to the valley that first inspired me.

What’s the best part 
of your job?

I still skip to and from work. Seeing the animals charismatically thrive in the 
care that I help provide is incredible. Each day presents itself with novelty, stimulation, and challenge — all which I find rewarding. The best part is knowing that 
I helped give the animals in our care the best day ever — each and every day.

What can visitors expect from the new Australian Adventures habitat?

It’s an incredible experience to come and learn about Australia’s wildlife and deserts. When entering the habitat, colorful native birds humbly flutter above you, Bennett’s wallabies hop about — possibly on your path — and the laughing kookaburra may be chuckling in the distance, while the brightly colored agile yellow-footed rock wallabies navigate their rocky terrain.

Heather Down

Animal Care Curator

The Living Desert 
Zoo and Gardens
47900 Portola Ave, 
Palm Desert


I love seeing guests relaxing on the natural rocks and feeling the cool mist of the 15-foot waterfall nearby as the wallabies forage the surrounding grasses.

What’s your all-time 
favorite animal?

The small wild cats of Africa, especially the sand cat, have captured my heart. These insanely successful predators are fierce survivors. And cute.

heather recommends

Farm in Palm Springs is a great pairing following a local hike. The atmosphere is filled with charm. It’s a beautiful sensory experience, and a Bloody Mary with personality! The intriguing and rotating fresh flavors on the menu keep me coming back.