Hayley Elwen is the EWT’s new Chief Operations Officer based at the EWT’s Head Office in Midrand. Read on as we delve into her journey to a career in conservation.
Hayley Elwen holding a dog

Hayley Elwen and her dog Luka

Where did you grow up?

All over the place, really – I was born in Pinetown near Durban but lived in Newcastle, Boksburg, and Bloemfontein as a kid. And since then, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Belgium. I identify as South African because I’ve lived all over the country.

What are your hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?

I love doing yoga because it provides such a great balance between mind and body. I’m also part of a hiking group, so we regularly do day hikes in the Magaliesburg and multi-day hikes around the country. I’m looking forward to being able to hike at Soutpansberg soon.  But I’m always up for something new – in the last five years, I’ve learnt to surf, snowboard and ride horses.

Any pets?

I can’t live without pets. I have two dogs of dubious heritage – one is a medium brown dog of eight years old called Boo Radley (and yes, it is from the character in “To kill a mockingbird”), and the other is a very smart but very naughty seven-month-old called Luca. Two cats complete the household – Nova and Chino.

Favourite animal?

It’s a tough call between a tiger and a meerkat.  I think it’s both. The tiger for its courage, grace and fierceness – although I now feel like I should find a local, endemic species instead of the tiger. And the meerkat because I love their social, connected way of living and their incredible curiosity about everything nearby. I am a very curious person – I thrive best on learning new knowledge and skills.

Favourite food?
I love food! Most foods, really. Pizza is always a comfort food for me. I also really like braaing – it’s a great excuse to sit outside, get fresh air, socialise, and eat great food with friends. And it’s the common connector for all South Africans.

Pet peeve?
The lack of empathy I see in so many people – if we just had a little more interest in others, patience and empathy, the world would be a much happier, safer place.

What is your feel-good song?

I love dancing, so something I can move to is good. “Dancing Again” by Timo ODV is a fantastic “dance and sing in the car” track that works wonderfully on a dance floor, and he’s a local DJ. For a quieter, happy moment, “I feel good” by Nina Simone. And finally, for a classical touch, “The Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg perhaps touches on my Norwegian heritage.

Why did you want to work for the EWT?

I have worked for many years in a variety of corporates and listed corporates, predominantly in Marketing and Business Development roles, but also managing several interesting projects and divisions from estimations and specifications divisions to BBBEE, product management and pricing, as well as running commercial excellence programmes.I am lucky to have experienced quite a few different sectors – from recruitment to utility analysis and energy management, all the way to the automotive sector, lifts, and the security industry, and working in and supporting teams in different countries around Africa, the Middle East and Europe. So, I have a broad background that has exposed me to different cultures, countries, sectors, people, and programmes. I had wanted to leave corporate to join an organisation making a positive, impactful difference to the world for quite some time. And I had some serious concerns about climate change and how we treated the planet. I wanted to contribute to helping turn that around. Equally, I was keen to help and support people, as I feel that poverty, injustice, and the associated lack of resources are the root of many of the challenges we face as a society. The fact that the EWT has such a strong focus on people in conservation excited me.I am incredibly excited to finally join the not-for-profit sector, focusing on conservation and making a difference in our world.

What excites you about this new position?

I am part of an organisation working to save species and habitats and help people – I get to support the conservation teams out in the field, making a positive impact every day.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who did it come from?

It’s not been a specific piece of advice, more a way of life, but essentially it boils down to “Be honest, have integrity, and be your authentic self – good things will follow”. They have, and they continue to.

Featured Story

Transporting wildlife? Here’s what you need to know!

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife in Trade Programme aims to raise awareness of wildlife laws in the domestic pet transporting industry and ensure that domestic pet transporters and other operators across South Africa understand the legal requirements for transporting wildlife.

Sign up to our newsletter

For the EWT’s latest news and fascinating stories

Find a post