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ZooMontana's "Adopt an Animal" program connects visitors with their favorite animals

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Posted at 4:33 PM, Sep 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-24 18:33:05-04

BILLINGS — Zoo Montana provides Billings and Montana residents alike, a chance to see animals from places around the world they otherwise may never get. And continuing to enhance that experience even more is a top priority.

"One of the fun programs we have for individuals to get involved with is the Adopt an Animal program. I do want to point out that it's symbolically adopting. So, if you adopt one of our tigers, you’re not going to get to take it home with you, that’s an important thing to know. But it’s a great way to support the zoo and at the same time, it’s a fun and unique gift," said Jeff Ewalt, executive director of ZooMontana.

The level of adoption fees range from $30 dollars up to $500 dollars per year. The program is a great way to become more connected to your favorites animals while receiving some cool perks in the process. From a picture or magnet of the animal you adopted, all the way up to private zoo tours and even animal encounters, however, the biggest beneficiaries are the animals.

"What that money does for us is really important. It’s obviously kept for the particular animal that you’re adopting and whether it’s a lynx, a bison, a tiger, a bear, whatever it may be, that money is going to stay with that animal. It can be used for feed, enrichment opportunities, medical needs, different toys for them and then habitat upgrades as well," added Ewalt.

Ewalt says that the money that comes in through the program is "great" because it allows the zoo to "ear mark specific dollars to specific animals." Something Billings resident Justin Hutchinson became interested in after the "Tiger King" documentary inspired him to adopt a tiger at the zoo.

"I got ahold of the zoo and was like hey, I love what you guys are doing with your tigers and how can I help? What can I do to support you guys in taking care of these animals the right way?" Hutchinson said.

Justin adopted Jasmine, an Amur tiger, the largest species of big cat on earth. He says he and his wife "visit often" and "love to see that they can also make a difference" for the animals.

"The most rewarding thing is knowing that I’m making a difference in the animals’ lives. They do such a great job there of conservation and animal education and I think the most rewarding thing is that other people can experience that as well by getting to give back that way," added Hutchinson.

Ewalt says events at the zoo make up a large portion of the revenue for them and that took a hit with Covid, but it is starting to rebound. He also mentioned that most of the animals at the zoo are rescues. So, promotions like the adoptions, go a long way in ensuring the zoo can go above and beyond the best possible care for the animals.

"Regardless of what level of donation someone makes, it all has that same importance for the individual that buys it and then obviously to us and the animals here at the zoo,' Ewalt said.