Jennifer Haddow: A Wild Woman

Written By: Celeste Percy-Beauregard, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Our Champions

Armed with the inspiration of her heroine Jane Goodall, and a calling to make tourism more sustainable, Jennifer Haddow made the bold decision to leave her comfortable day job and become an independent business owner who now travels half of each year. It’s been more than 8-years since Jennifer began this adventure, and these days you may find her bonding with orangutans in Indonesia, kayaking with sea turtles in the Galápagos, or hiking in the Patagonian wilderness of Chile – just some of the experiences offered by her travel company, Wild Women Expeditions.

As a leader in sustainable, socially conscious travel, Jennifer is an inspirational figure in her own right. Having worked with Oxfam Canada on global campaigns for women’s rights, social justice and environmental issues, Jennifer was no stranger to travel, largely in developing countries. However, a particularly meaningful travel experience for Jennifer came when visiting Thailand years ago; there on holiday she witnessed the exploitation of a baby elephant in a market. It was the first time she had seen this majestic animal outside the confines of a zoo, and she says, “Watching the terrible behavior of tourists, whether or not they were aware of the impact they were having on this elephant, I felt ashamed. I felt deep shame in people, in tourists. And something in me clicked in that moment about how tourism needed to change.”

Since then, Jennifer has been instrumental in making that change happen herself, through Wild Women Expeditions. She explains, “We don’t ride elephants on tours. We are donating to the first elephant hospital in Thailand, and we also support a project run by Karen Hill Tribe women to convert an abusive elephant camp into an elephant and jungle sanctuary project. We’re being a very vocal advocate for elephants’ welfare. And we can do that as a tour operator because people listen in a different way when you are a business and you are bringing money to a place.”

Beyond their work with elephants in Thailand, Wild Women Expeditions fosters responsible tourism in a multitude of other ways, such as investing in sustainable businesses, using environmentally sensitive accommodations, and selecting tourist activities that are minimally invasive. But Jennifer does recognize that there is still an inherent impact that is created by the travel industry, including unavoidable carbon emissions and ongoing development to accommodate tourists. This is why, she says, it was so important to her to also become a donor to the Jane Goodall Institute, elaborating, “I wanted to make sure that we could contribute something of value to organizations like JGI [to] make sure that we were contributing more than we were harming at the end of the day.”

A milestone for Jennifer was interviewing her lifelong heroine for Wild Women Magazine in 2016. She vividly remembers how Dr. Jane described her belief that humans will do their part to protect animals and nature once they fall in love with the wild. Jennifer enthuses, “I feel like that is what my work in the world is; I am a matchmaker. I am helping women fall in love with the wild. So I just felt a great alignment with what I’m trying to do and what Dr. Goodall is doing so wonderfully in her work in the world, and I wanted to contribute to that in some small way. And I always feel like we can do more, and we will do more.”

If you also feel like you could do more , please consider supporting chimpanzees in Tchimpounga by donating to the Jane Goodall Institute this Giving Tuesday.