The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert will remain open, despite Riverside County moving back to the most restrictive category of the governor’s reopening plan, zoo officials said Thursday.

Animal lovers are still invited to enjoy 80 acres of outdoor space amid safety protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, including timed ticketing, required face coverings and a cap on guest capacity.

County health officials announced Tuesday that the California Department of Public Health had downgraded Riverside County from the red tier back to the purple, or most restrictive tier, meaning some businesses that had reopened in recent weeks will have to close again or move their operations outside.

Gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship are among the entities that are affected.

The announcement, however, had no impact on the zoo’s operations. Many indoor-based shows and presentations have not reopened due to the pandemic, and those that did are not included in the scope of the purple tier designation.

Zoo-goers will still have access to the indoor gift shop amid reduced guest capacity, and food and beverage sales will continue to be offered on a take-away basis absent indoor seating.

Three nature preserve hiking trails that reopened earlier this month will additionally remain open for recreation.

After shuttering for nearly three months, the Living Desert reopened to the public on June 15. Zoo officials worked with both state and county officials in creating specific precautions, which remain in effect to guard against COVID-19 and include a limit on entry to 200 guests per hour, with a maximum of 1,000 guests per day, including both members and daily visitors.

All tickets must also be purchased in advance, including tickets for members, using the zoo’s online system. Tickets can be reserved up to two weeks in advance for contact-free and expedited admissions.

Gates open up daily at 8 a.m., with the zoo and amenities open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last admission at 4 p.m.

For additional information on the zoo’s safety protocols, visit

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