BLOG: Working for Wild Welfare
I was already a massive fan of the work that Wild Welfare does years before I started working for them. I’d never come across another charity doing anything like what they were doing, and particularly in the way they were doing it. The problem of poor animal welfare within captive animal facilities such as zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries is widespread and incredibly challenging. Instead of condemnation, Wild Welfare collaborates, working together to drive forward welfare improvements for animals in facilities across the globe. Providing training to animal care staff ensures they have the tools they need to better understand animal welfare and positively impact it through their care practices. The training we provide has proven very effective at achieving this outcome over the 11 years we have been active and being a part of the journey has been phenomenal.
A typical day for me involves a lot of desk work which was a significant change from the years I spent working as a zookeeper, but the impact I know I can have, and the animal welfare issues I am hugely aware of are my driving force. Typical days in the field, however, look very different. We might have meetings with project partners in Vietnam, give presentations at a conference in Indonesia, or conduct welfare audits and make recommendations on where improvements might be made in a facility in Japan. Of course, taking a moment to say hello to the animals is an essential part of the process. The animals make everything worth it but, surprisingly for me, they didn’t turn out to be the best part of my role. Instead it’s the people, and the changes we create within them. Meeting people who are so passionate about the animals under their care, and giving them opportunities to learn more about how to improve animal welfare is intensely gratifying. You can make friends for life, despite the language barriers.
In this line of work it’s not all about the qualifications. Particular personality traits also hold significance. Patience and level-headedness are two critically important attributes because the changes we are creating take time and the sights we sometimes see aren’t pleasant. Reacting in anger or impatience is a sure-fire way to destroy a collaborative relationship which might have taken years to build.
I recently journeyed to Weston College to give a lecture to the students about the differences between animal care and animal welfare, something I had struggled to comprehend myself when I was a keeper. It was fantastic to connect with the students and I hope what we discussed will help with their animal management practices in the future. It was also very encouraging to witness the fundraising efforts which Weston College had initiated. We are a charity after all and cannot create positive changes for animals without financial support so we were hugely grateful to everyone who chooses to get involved with our work via donations to its continuation.
Sarah Bonser-Blake, Animal Welfare Field Manager, Wild Welfare
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