Being a caregiver for captive chimpanzees in a sanctuary is not always easy. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Burn out and compassion fatigue are not unusual. As someone who has worked at varying levels within sanctuaries, I know the difficulties as well as the many perks. I’m so grateful for those who choose this field.
We have a truly incredible team of caregivers. They are dedicated beyond what their positions require and strive to give the chimpanzees good days, every day. They are talented, witty, and kind. I admire each of them as individual people and as coworkers. I learn from them all of the time, and I love reading their blog posts for their unique perspective and insights.
For a sanctuary, the staff are the most important, and often the largest, expense in the budget. No one is getting rich as a caregiver, but they do need to be paid fairly so they can continue their good work. Some sanctuaries attempt to rely on volunteer labor, but this more often than not is unsuccessful in the long term. We miss all of the CSNW volunteers greatly, and are beyond thankful to those who have been able to meet our strict guidelines and worked so hard alongside us this year.
The pandemic was a big reminder of just how crucial paid staff are in providing for the care of the chimpanzees and cattle and the running of the sanctuary.
Donors to sanctuaries get this. You get this! You all are so wonderful, and every single staff member here is grateful every day for your support. Thank you for your donations and your nice words as 2020 came to a close. We are buoyed by your generosity and the love of the chimpanzees and bovines that you have.
With the start of the new year, I thought I’d nominate my favorite 2020 blog posts from the non-director staff (that would be everyone except me and J.B.). It was very challenging to narrow this down!
I’ll start with Chad.
Chad is our newest caregiver, though now that we’ve all been through a pandemic year together, and with all his time as an intern before he was on the staff, it seems like he’s been here forever, in a really good way. His post A Morning Stroll and Confession of a (New) Caregiver from the end of September makes me cry and smile every time I read it. One reason I smile is thinking about how many times he’s gone on walks/runs around the hill with Burrito since he wrote that. J.B. and I have a good view of the hill from our house and the office, and it’s not unusual for me to look out the window on my weekend and see Chad in his red shirt running on the other side of the fence as playful Burrito leads the charge.
Anthony started his job at CSNW about two months before Honey B, Mave, and Willy B arrived at the sanctuary. I think they call that baptism by fire. He wasn’t an unfamiliar face, however. Like Chad, he had interned and volunteered at the sanctuary while working on his master’s degree in the Primate Behavior and Ecology program at Central Washington University. I can’t imagine 2020, much less the later half of 2019 without him as part of the team.
I’m going back pretty far in the year for this one, but I really appreciated the blog post Anthony wrote that he entitled The Tough Questions about public perception and the potential for videos and images of captive primates (and all wildlife) to perpetuate misconceptions and even contribute to their continued harm. It provides much fodder for contemplation.
Anna has had quite a year in her personal life – she has a one year old now! My favorite blog post of Anna’s in 2020 is What Did I Miss?, mostly because of the glimpse of her daughter Luna meeting the chimpanzees for the first time, but also because I am reminded of the happiness I had that she was back from maternity leave and ready to whip the chimp house into shape.
I’m pretty lucky because I get to work with Kelsi on Saturdays. As I put this blog together, Kelsi is doing the approximately one hundred chimp house chores in her usual efficient and upbeat fashion in between entertaining Honey B and Willy B and giving snow snacks to Missy. My favorite blog post of Kelsi’s, one that I go to whenever needed, is Breathe in Mave. It’s perfect, and really everyone should bookmark it.
Katelyn’s work life during 2020 has changed quite a bit. Like thousands of other people, instead of coming in on her office days, she works from home. Office cat LouLou really misses crowding her out of her chair and licking her lunch, and I miss chatting with her about how amazing our supporters are. When Katelyn is in the chimp house, she makes the most of her time with the chimpanzees, posting to the blog on Mondays. My favorite blog post of Katelyn’s is Being Honey B because she beautifully captured the essence of Honey B and why just about anyone who has ever met her has loved her.
I could have chosen any number of other blog posts these great caregivers have written. Maybe you too have some favorites?