Compassion Fatigue in Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) Caregivers: Prevalence, Contributing Factors, and Coping Mechanisms

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jesse Leinwand, Gill Vale
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Compassion fatigue (CF) refers to the exhaustion and distress caused by the demands of caring for others. CF occurs in a variety of helping professions, including physicians, nurses, educators, social workers and animal caregivers, and is known to adversely impact both caregivers’ quality of life and the care they provide. This study assessed the prevalence, risk and protective factors, coping strategies and support programs for CF in chimpanzee caregivers (N = 123) at accredited sanctuaries and zoos in the United States. Online survey results revealed that 91.06% of chimpanzee caregivers experienced CF at some point in their careers. Common CF symptoms were exhaustion, frustration, anxiety, depression, and apathy. Perceived factors influencing CF included being understaffed, lacking resources and training, poor relationships with coworkers and supervisors, and financial insecurity. Commonly reported coping strategies were talking to someone, having pets, self-care, and getting away from work. 20.33% of caregivers reported having institutional support programs available to them, however they were rarely viewed as helpful and 32.52% of respondents were unsure about program availability. Overall, our findings suggest that, like other caregiving professionals, chimpanzee caregivers are susceptible to CF and may benefit from new or updated support programs that continue to build a ‘culture of care’ that meets employee, animal, and facility needs.


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