Educational Resources

Featured: Valentina Rose from Chimp Haven

Let Us Help You

The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance is pleased to serve as a collective source of expertise and advice on a variety of topics impacting primate welfare.


You can help NAPSA continue its important work strengthening its member sanctuaries and advocating for primate retirement.

How to Start a Sanctuary
How to Transition to a Sanctuary
True Sanctuaries vs. Pseudo-Sanctuaries
The Use of Posed Primates on Greeting Cards
How to Start a Sanctuary

NAPSA and its member sanctuaries are approached often by people seeking advice on how to start their own sanctuary. Although there is no precise formula for the successful founding and maintenance of a sanctuary, here are some of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Species: Clarify what types of animals you want to care for. Do you have experience caring for the species in mind? Most importantly, is there a need for more sanctuaries to house this species?
  • Land: You will need to find property that has appropriate zoning, with proper permits, in a climate that is suitable for the species you wish to rescue. Local communities are not always supportive of introducing non-native animals to an area.
  • Nonprofit Status: Even if you are independently wealthy, your sanctuary will need to obtain both state and 501(c)(3) federal nonprofit status in order to reduce taxes, provide legitimacy, and accept tax deductible donations. This will require that you form a board of directors, create a mission statement, and write bylaws. As a nonprofit, the organization does not belong to you, rather you are an employee of the organization.
  • Fundraising: Prepare to spend much time and energy fundraising for your sanctuary, both before it opens and constantly once it has opened. Animal care, payroll, expansions and maintenance are expensive.
  • Develop policies and procedures: Your sanctuary will need a manual of policies that dictates how the organization functions. This provides assurance and protection to you, the organization, its donors and its employees. This is also key to ensuring animals are safe when and if the sanctuary faces natural disasters and other emergencies.
  • Finances: You will need professional guidance from accountants to prepare your financial statements, submit your taxes and guide your organization forward. As founder, be sure to never invest more of your own money than you would be comfortable walking away from.
  • Licensing and accreditation: You will need the outside approval of state, county, and industry animal care experts in order to permit volunteers on site, and to prove to your donors, foundations and those placing animals with you that you are reputable.
  • People skills: You got into this for a love of primates, but know that you will spend most of your time managing and interacting with people, whether that is employees, volunteers, donors, contractors, the sanctuary’s board, etc. Running a sanctuary is no different than running any other business – you need HR skills, practical knowledge, confidence, and the ability to seek help when needed.
  • Know how to say no: You will not be able to save every animal. In order for your sanctuary to be sustainable and run responsibly, you will need to say “no” if the sanctuary does not have the capacity to take in new animals.
  • Learn from experts: Network with multiple people experienced in founding and running sanctuaries. Learn from their mistakes and take their advice seriously. They will know the answers to any of the questions listed here – and more!

Download a PDF of this statement here.

How to Transition to a Sanctuary

NAPSA and its members have been approached by animal care facilities that wish to become sanctuaries but are overwhelmed with the necessary changes, and aren’t sure what steps to take because there are many ways in which sanctuaries differ from other facilities. We wish to encourage and support any organization looking to make positive changes and become a reputable sanctuary. Transitioning to a true sanctuary is better for the animals and also better for gaining public support. Here are some ways to begin making the shift:

  • Nonprofit status: True sanctuaries are registered state and federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Earning this status will benefit your organization due to decreased tax liabilities, increased legitimacy and the ability to accept tax-deductible donations.
  • Licensing and accreditation: Animal care standards of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries or the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are publicly available. Even if a facility cannot currently meet the standards, it can create a plan to make the changes necessary to eventually meet the standards. External approval and oversight will ensure donor confidence and the safety of not just the animals, but of staff and the organization as well.
  • Animal care: Sanctuaries do not remove their animals from the property or permit public contact or handling. This is safest for the animals and humans involved. Additionally, sanctuaries do not breed animals or engage in commercial trade in animals or their products. The more a facility can commit to this sanctuary ethos, the more it will be able to establish itself as a bona fide sanctuary with the animals’ well-being as its first priority.
  • Fundraising: Sanctuaries are not open to the public. Facilities accustomed to profiting from daily entrance fees will have to transition to earning revenue from foundation grants and public donations, which are easier to come by when one is established as a sanctuary.
  • Documentation via policies and procedures: Ensure that everyone involved in the organization, from staff to volunteers, is aware of the policies set and has the training to carry out necessary procedures. Change is never easy, but this can be presented in a way that highlights the many proven benefits of operating as a true sanctuary.
  • Be honest: Former visitors to a facility may be disappointed initially to hear of changes being made, but honesty is key. Use social media and other forms of communication to explain that the facility has shifted priorities and is focused on providing enriched, lifetime care to the animals living there. It may lose some followers initially, but it will gain others who appreciate the renewed focus on animal welfare.
  • Learn from experts: There are many accredited sanctuaries who have been in operation for decades without compromising any of the standards listed above. It can be done! NAPSA can answer questions and give feedback to advise facilities wishing to implement these options. Email us at to learn more.

Download a PDF of this statement here.

True Sanctuaries vs. Pseudo-Sanctuaries

The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) is dedicated to educating the public about characteristics of reputable sanctuaries, as well as attributes of facilities that should be avoided. Do not support facilities that do not operate with the best interests of animals in their care as their first priority.
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) unites the primate sanctuary community, builds capacity to provide sanctuary for captive nonhuman primates, and advocates to eliminate primate exploitation. NAPSA member sanctuaries care for over 800 nonhuman primates retired from the entertainment, biomedical research, and exotic pet industries, and are experts in providing enriched lifetime care to captive animals. As there are no regulations in the United States that manage who may refer to themselves as a sanctuary, it is important for NAPSA members to distinguish themselves from other facilities who house captive animals but who do not operate with the same high standards, and may even exploit and harm the animals in their care.

It can be difficult to distinguish pseudo-sanctuaries from reputable sanctuaries. There are a number of key characteristics the public may look for when trying to make this determination.

True Sanctuaries:

  • Operate with the best interests of the animals in their care as their first priority.
  • Are non-profit organizations.
  • Do not breed, sell or trade the animals in their care.
  • Do not allow public contact with captive wildlife.
  • Do not remove animals from their enclosures or sanctuary property for exhibition, education, research, or commercial purposes.
  • Have limited public visitation.
  • Do not exploit the animals in their care. Examples include: photo opportunities with animals, hands-on interactions, or training animals to perform.
  • Are fiscally responsible and able to provide lifetime care for all animals at the sanctuary.
  • Advocate on behalf of the species in their care.
  • Are licensed, accredited and/or overseen by outside organizations. This may include the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the United States Department of Agriculture, and/or NAPSA.

Download a PDF of this statement here.

The Use of Posed Primates on Greeting Cards

Historically, goofy images of trained apes and monkeys have been popular subjects of greeting cards, often wearing clothing or partaking in human activities. Although this practice is waning, a variety of such cards remain available in stores. Have you been dismayed to receive such a card from a well-meaning friend? Share this information below to help spread the word about the facts behind the images on the card.

  1. Forced Behavior: Primates baring their teeth to “smile” for a photographer are actually exhibiting a fear grimace, which can be a naturally-occurring or trained behavior – both of which are cause for concern.
  2. Harmful Training Processes: The use of primates in entertainment involves removal of infants from their mothers years before they would naturally separate, training methods that range from uncomfortable to abusive, and an unnatural and difficult life of performing on command. Many primate trainers have been cited for not providing for the basic needs of primates in their care.
  3. Wrong Message: Research has shown that the use of primates in entertainment sends incorrect messages to the public, who assume that they are not endangered or threatened in the wild (though most primate species are) and that they would make good pets (though no primates do.)
  4. Lifelong Impacts: Most primates can only be trained to pose when they’re young. As they get older, stronger, and more willful, primates who outgrow entertainment may be sold to breeders, roadside zoos, or into the pet trade. The lucky ones may find their way to an accredited sanctuary, but even in the most enriched sanctuary setting, they often exhibit social and behavioral disorders as a result of their unnatural upbringing that impacts them the rest of their lives.
  5. #Progress4Primates: Most stock-image agencies no longer offer commercial photos and videos of primates behaving unnaturally or posing in a studio. American Greetings pulled several of their greeting card designs featuring chimpanzees, and 41 advertising agencies have banned the use of great apes in their work altogether.
  6. Use Your Voice: If you get a card with a primate in an unnatural pose, use that opportunity to educate your friend and ask them not to purchase such cards in the future. Many people truly don’t know the facts about the use of primates in entertainment and will be happy to learn the truth!
  7. Alternatives Exist: Most primate sanctuaries sell cards with beautiful, candid photographs or illustrations of monkeys and apes. Support your local sanctuary!

Download a PDF of this statement here.

Additional Resource Links

True Sanctuaries vs. Pseudo Sanctuaries