Strengthening Our Community Through Collaboration
PASA’s annual Strategic Development Conference brings our alliance together to work on protecting Africa’s endangered and threatened primates.
by Abigail Riley

With 23 member organizations in 13 countries, PASA is the largest association of wildlife centers in Africa. However, for sanctuary staff it can be easy to feel like you are working alone. “Facing animal welfare and conservation challenges while sitting in a small corner of Africa can be a very lonely experience,” says Pam, the director of Colobus Conservation, a PASA member sanctuary in Kenya. “The SDC meeting pulls together people who have similar challenges, which makes a dramatic impact on our ability to solve technical issues.”

The Strategic Development Conference (SDC), previously called the manager’s meeting, emerged in 2000 with the goal of bringing PASA member sanctuaries together for critical training, capacity building and networking opportunities. The conference is hosted by a different African wildlife center each year and provides sanctuary directors and managers a platform to discuss topics such as fundraising, strategic planning, and building collaboration on education projects and shared objectives.

PASA provides funding for one director or manager from every PASA sanctuary to attend the meeting so that each center is represented in the discussions. The Norm Rosen Leadership Development Grant, established in 2016, also brings promising staff members to the conference who are nominated by their directors. This grant covers conference attendance for these individuals to cultivate the next generation of leaders in primate conservation and welfare. In addition, the Siddle-Marsden award is given during the conference to an individual who exemplifies commitment to primates, conservation, and excellence.

Sheila Siddle, founder of Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, receives the Circle of Compassion Award at the 2017 Strategic Development Conference.

The most-recent SDC was held at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Chingola, Zambia, and brought together 53 sanctuary leaders and educators. By the end of the gathering, participants not only achieved their top objectives of enhancing PASA member organizations’ sustainability, conservation education, and community outreach programs, but also an unanticipated outcome: commitment by PASA member organizations to strengthen PASA and support PASA’s strategic planning.

The Strategic Development Conference has been a critical resource for PASA member organizations over the years and will continue to provide opportunities for sanctuaries to collaborate and learn from one another. The 2018 SDC will be held in early November in Freetown, Sierra Leone and will include a visit to Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Small groups of sanctuary directors and managers gather to discuss strategies and challenges at the 2017 SDC.

Chimfunshi veterinarian, Thalita Calvi, exams a baby chimpanzee with Lilly Ajarova, director of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.