The Living Desert held a press conference Wednesday morning to educate the community on precautions it takes against West Nile Virus and its collaboration with the Coachella Valley Vector Control in light of a mosquito testing positive for the virus on or nearby the park.

Staff veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Leiske, provided information on animal vaccination against the virus. "We vaccinate at-risk birds, endangered species, and a collection of other animals intended for the vaccination including the zebra."

There are other preventative measures taken by the park. The Living Desert continues to convert more than half of their irrigation system to a drip system which allows water to be absorbed into the ground rather than collecting on top. Additionally, as part of a conservation project with the California Department of Fish & Game, The Living Desert is providing habitat for the desert pupfish which reside in park ponds and eat mosquito larvae.

The Coachella Valley Vector Control manages 120 test sites throughout the Valley. The Living Desert has voluntarily participated in this program for nearly ten years to help monitor the virus. Steve Feldman, Senior Vice-President of External Affairs for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, commented on the efforts of The Living Desert. "The precautions The Living Desert takes by offering voluntary testing at their park is an example of their leadership in the community and the great care they provide to their animals." The Living Desert is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

As part of the partnership with the Coachella Valley Vector Control, The Living Desert maintains a free-standing informational kiosk with educational information on the West Nile Virus where visitors are invited to learn the history and background of the virus.

For more information, please contact Nyla Patzner, Director of Communications, Living Desert, (760)346-5694, ext 2610.