Inside the sanctuary of Papago Park, rust-colored sandstone monuments tower weathered and worn over a saguaro-studded moonscape. Ponds lined with palm trees and neat swaths of golf course green from form oases in the parched desert, and the sun illuminates a white pyramid standing alone atop a towering hillside. Erected out of grief by Arizona’s first governor, George Wiley Paul Hunt, to entomb the body of his wife, it is where he, too, is now enshrined.
Follow the paved path through this most unlikely corner of Phoenix, and another fantastic anomaly awaits. An array of birds, their melodies a medley of musical accord, accompanies the gentle rhythm of the hooves of giraffes and Grant’s gazelles as they saunter across a rolling savanna. Smiling meerkats stand erect, their masked eyes curious as they dart to and fro foraging for food. A rare white rhino stands motionless in the shade like a giant weather-worn boulder perched atop thick stumps.
In all, more than 1,400 mammals,...