By Carly Laucella
Are you in touch with your wild side? Animal lovers can now show support for their favorite inhabitants of Waco’s Cameron Park Zoo, thanks to the zoo’s recently revamped “Adopt an animal” program.
Terri Cox, exhibit curator said the expanded Cameron Park Zoo and “Adopt an animal” program opened to the public in 1983. In 2013, the zoo added new benefits for program participants. It now offers those who donate $100 a behind the scenes look into the zoo animals with a zookeeper.
Through the program, people are able to symbolically adopt an animal of their choice. The proceeds help pay for the zoo’s annual grocery bill of over $200,000. Through the purchase and adoption, the zoo is able to buy food, such as apples, mealworms, carrots, hay and crickets for the animals according to Cameron Park Zoo’s website.
The zoo houses around 1,300 animals from around the world. Many of which are endangered. They rely heavily on donations from the Waco community that help with food, maintenance and sustainability.
“The zoo is basically a great outdoor classroom, a wonderful place for education and is hugely important for conservation,” Cox said. “The animals that are born in zoos represent their wild counterparts and are the ambassadors for their counterparts. When people visit zoos they are not only learning about these animals, but are helping with their conservation efforts in the wild.”
The are more than 16 different animals available for “adoption.” Some include orangutans, Ocelots, Komodo Dragons, African Elephants and Sumatran Tigers.
With a $25 donation, participants receive a certificate, an animal fact sheet and a photo of their chosen adopted animal. Those who donate $50 get the previously mentioned items along with a stuffed animal. Those who donate $100 get all the items mentioned in the $25 and $50 donations plus a behind the scenes look at their adopted animal with a zookeeper.
“When people get to have a behind the scenes look at the animals it’s very enlightening to them and they are able to see the bond the animals and the keepers have with each other,” Cox said.
Cox said this educational opportunity allows a closer look into the lives of some of the most beloved animals at the Cameron Park Zoo, all while contributing to their upkeep and preservation. She said it helps zookeepers to care for the animals in a stress-free way.