Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

Resiliency, Recovery, and Roles in Animal Well-being

NAPSA Conference 2023

Resiliency, Recovery, and Roles in Animal Well-being

Two Wild Welfare team members recently returned from the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) conference where they delivered a presentation focusing on the essential role caregivers play in promoting animal well-being. The Conference’s theme was “#CaregiverStrong” aimed to empower caregivers who work on the front line caring for rescued primates.

Margaret Whittaker, Executive Director of Wild Welfare (U.S.) and Dave Morgan, Field Director of Wild Welfare were invited to attend the two day conference held in Atlanta, GA. This conference brought together primate sanctuary professionals from NAPSA member facilities and non-member facilities, and those from the animal protection and welfare communities. This was the first in-person conference since the pandemic and it was truly wonderful to see old friends and colleagues again, and to meet many new ones. Margaret and Dave were honoured to acknowledge and speak about the caregiver role in animal welfare. The 90-minute presentation, entitled Resiliency, Recovery, and Roles in Animal Well-being, aimed to deepen the caregiver’s understanding of modern animal welfare theory, and highlight practical techniques which sanctuary caregivers can use to promote well-being in rescued animals.  Sanctuary animals, commonly coming from suboptimal conditions, may arrive to their new homes with a host of physical, social, and psychological dysfunction or incompetency, and therefore specialized techniques are required to aid in their recovery.

The presentation explored the following themes:

  1. Recognition of the influential and crucial role front-line animal care staff play in achieving well-being.
  2. Introduction to the implementation of a ‘Culture of Care Cycle’ encouraging acceptance of responsibility and accountability in all aspects of animal care, thus yielding excellence in care and welfare.
  3. Understanding why welfare assessments are critical to the cycle of care.
  4. Acknowledgment of the trauma and resultant deleterious effects to behaviour and welfare that many sanctuary animals have experienced.
  5. Application of behavioural management techniques to specifically address recovery and behavioural and psychological rehabilitation by building coping skills and resiliency, enhancing species-appropriate skills, and ultimately assisting an animal on its path to achieving autonomy and well-being.

Dave and Margaret’s presentation was one of 14; it was well received by the 60+ conference attendees, including animal caregivers, sanctuary veterinarians, facility directors and representatives from animal protection groups.

There is often the perception that veterinarians are the main arbitrator of captive animal welfare, yet because ‘welfare’ is about far more than physical health, this is a misperception. The person on the front line of good mental health provision is the animal care giver, and thus the person who has the responsibility for the immediate and comprehensive day to day care of the animal. It was great to be able to present on this specific topic and talk directly to the caregivers themselves about the vital importance of their role.” Dave Morgan.

Wild Welfare works as much with people as with animals as a means to drive positive changes for captive animal welfare. Only by building capacity and understanding within animal caregivers and managers, can positive and sustainable changes to welfare result. Without this collaboration, any changes we create are neither sustainable nor long-term, and the overall impact is short-lived.

Through the provision of training and participation at conferences such as this, Wild Welfare continues to bring welfare to the forefront of all discussions which drive decisions about captive care, thus pursuing the goal for every animal to have the opportunity to thrive.


Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact Wild Welfare on

Wild Welfare is a global organisation committed to improving animal welfare for captive wild animals. By uniting the world’s leading zoos, zoo associations and animal welfare organisations, we build trusting partnerships that help provide long-term solutions to critical wild animal welfare issues.

Our vision is to end the suffering of captive wild animals around the world and ensure full and sustainable protection is given to all animals in human care. Find out more at Registered charity in England (no.1165941).