Article by: Jane Marsh, Editor-in-Chief of


Imagine rolling over and waking up next to your purring Bengal tiger. Well, wild animals don’t make the best domestic pets — but you can still adopt one symbolically. Symbolically adopting wildlife benefits numerous endangered species and aids scientists’ efforts to protect them.

If you’re wondering what a symbolic wildlife adoption looks like, here’s an overview of the benefits and ways your contribution can make a difference. 

What Is Symbolic Wildlife Adoption?

A symbolic adoption is a charitable donation supporting scientific research, habitat restoration and species conservation. Essentially, your adoption will benefit many animals with a given species population.  

Often, the charity will send a photograph of your animal, a fact sheet and an adoption certificate when you donate. Some also provide updates on the well-being of your animal. 

According to a recent LendingTree study, 32% of Americans donated to wildlife conservation charities in 2021. Generation Z and millennials led animal-related philanthropy, mainly through social media.

Platforms like Instagram and Facebook have driven awareness of wildlife issues. Nearly 15.6% of donors feel compelled to donate when they come across a cause while scrolling through their feeds.

How Symbolic Adoption Benefits Endangered Species

Regardless of how or why you donate, your contribution matters. A symbolic adoption gives a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves. Here are three ways your donation benefits endangered species.

  • Raises Awareness

Symbolically adopting wildlife fosters a personal connection to an animal and raises awareness of critical threats and species endangerment. For instance, you may feel inclined to share your wildlife adoption with others, helping spread information through ordinary conversations. 

It is also easy to raise awareness through social media posts. Sharing your wildlife adoption content with the masses can spark interest and lead others to take action. 

  • Funds Conservation Efforts

Your symbolic adoption helps fund cutting-edge research and conservation to save endangered species. The National Autonomous University in Mexico is just one example of a recent Adoptaxolotl campaign aimed at protecting the native axolotl. 

In 2022, Adoptaxotol funded $26,300 for a captive breeding and habitat restoration program in Xochimilco. Scientists believe there are less than 1,000 axolotls left in Mexico. Whereas 6,000 used to roam every square kilometer, you can now only find about 36. 

  • Encourages Ecosystem Protection

Habitat restoration is critical for ensuring the longevity of endangered species. Symbolic adoption funds may apply to land purchases and restoration of vital ecosystems. 

Additionally, conservationists use the money to involve local communities in sustainability efforts and wildlife protection. Some funding may also go towards land surveillance, technology and patrolling to fight poaching on protected land. 

Endangered Species at an All-Time High

The International Union of Conservation Network’s Red List includes 150,388 plant and wildlife species globally, with 42,108 on the verge of extinction. 

The outlook appears especially grim amid the current trajectory of climate change. A 2022 study showed 26.7% of species going extinct by the end of the century in a worst-case climate scenario.

A healthy planet relies on its many flora and fauna. A failing species signals the fall of an ecosystem. Meanwhile, one extinct species could be the beginning of another species going extinct. 

Humans also require healthy ecosystems and their many services. Conserving all living things is in everyone’s best social, economic and health-related interest. 

How to Symbolically Adopt Wildlife Safely

You may have seen a commercial for adopting wildlife symbolically and wondered if it was a legitimate charity. No one would fault you for raising concerns, as many fraudulent charities exist. Likewise, you could be questioning how much of an impact your contribution will have on species protection.

Some things to consider before symbolically adopting wildlife include the following:

  • Transparency about fund allocations — some charities spend more money on administrative costs than species conservation.
  • The actual cost of protecting a species.
  • Whether the charity commodifies wildlife for financial gain.
  • Misleading messaging.

The best way to ensure your symbolic adoption makes a real difference is to evaluate each charity thoroughly — this means researching criticisms and controversies surrounding the campaign. Organizations like Charity Navigator can also help you evaluate the quality of various non-profits.

Sometimes it’s best to directly contribute to a reputable conservation organization where you can rest assured your money gets used properly. 

Likewise, you can also volunteer or advocate for a cause as an alternative. 

Symbolic Adoption Supports Wildlife Protection

Symbolic wildlife adoption is an excellent starting point for someone new to conservation-related philanthropy. Although you may have less control over the funds’ use, you can still positively impact a species if you do your research first.

If you’re looking to symbolically adopt an animal, consider adopting a gray wolf, as they have recently lost protections under the Endangered Species Act and need urgent help to protect them from hunting and trapping in Idaho and Montana.

Symbolically Adopt a Gray Wolf

Help protect wolves in the Northern Rockies and around the US

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