Mojave Maxine helps determine spring’s arrival

PALM DESERT/INDIAN WELLS – Mojave Maxine, a 43-year old desert tortoise that resides at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, helps determine the arrival of spring. Each year, students in grades K-12 from nine counties throughout Southern California are invited to predict when Mojave Maxine will emerge from her brumation (hibernation for reptiles) and make her first appearance of 2021.

Maxine and other desert tortoises typically enter brumation in November around Thanksgiving. Their bodies know when to go to sleep based on the outside temperatures and the change in daylight hours. Sometime in the coming months, she will awaken from her winter slumber and emerge from her subterranean burrow at The Living Desert, indicating longer, warmer days are on the way. The exact date of this annual occurrence is anyone’s guess.

“Mojave Maxine is a wonderful ambassador at The Living Desert, as she helps educate people about the plight of desert tortoises which are threatened due to several factors, most of which are human-caused,” said Dr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation. “This annual contest provides the perfect opportunity for students to learn about desert tortoises, how to help protect them, and have some fun guessing when Mojave Maxine will emerge from her burrow.”

The first contest entry received from each county that is closest to the exact day and time wins a virtual classroom visit from a desert tortoise and biologist, Mojave Maxine t-shirts for their entire class, and a tortoise book for their teacher’s library. Students from Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties are invited to participate in the contest.

Last year’s contest drew more than 1,300 students submitting predictions prior to Maxine’s star-studded arrival on the morning of January 23, 2020.

The guessing contest is currently open and will run until Mojave Maxine emerges from her burrow. A live video feed will be available online to watch for when Mojave Maxine appears. To enter click here.