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Humpback whale underwater

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Remembering our friend Jo Toole

All of us here at WDC were deeply shocked and saddened to hear of Jo's death in last Sunday's air crash near Addis Ababa. Many of us had had the pleasure and privilege of working with Jo over many years and it is hard to think of anyone who better epitomises the concept of 'making the world a better place for animals' - - and she particularly loved whales and dolphins.  The impact she had on people and wildlife means that her legacy is assured and we wanted to take this opportunity to share with you this tribute written by two of her closest friends and colleagues.

A message from Mark Simmonds and Claire Bass, Chairs of the Whale and Welfare Working Groups1.

As you will have seen in every national newspaper and almost every national news bulletin for several days, a young lady called Joanna Toole died when an Ethiopian Airways flight crashed early on Sunday morning in a tragic event that scarred the African landscape and the lives of the friends and families of those on board.

Many of us in Link2 and the NGO community beyond knew Jo well and many of were fortunate enough to have her as a friend. Others may, of course, wonder who she was. So, this note will introduce her to some of you and for others will hopefully remind you of our lost comrade as we try to adapt to this tragedy.

Joanna was a passionate champion for a better world for people and animals. For the last fifteen years she worked on animal welfare and ocean issues within the nongovernmental and intergovernmental sectors. In her years with World Animal Protection, she was a lively and key contributor to the Link Whales Group – attending several IWC meetings where her good humour and irreverent sense of fun helped get us through some tricky times. Her work on cetacean hunting also included a memorable visit to the Faroes Islands (where she has also been remembered in the local press). She also invested huge energy and passion into co-founding the now very successful Global Ghost Gear Initiative (, finding solutions to this deadly form of marine litter.

Her ground-breaking marine work continued when she moved to Oceancare as an Ocean Policy Consultant a couple of years ago and, latterly, she went to work for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), moving to Rome with her partner Paul, to take up this post.

The plane that crashed is part of what is regarded as a regular ‘shuttle-service’ between Addis Ababa and Nairobi for UN people and she was ‘on mission’ moving between meetings to represent the FAO this week at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

Jo was an easy person to be friends with, kind, generous with her time, lacking in edge or ego and a treasured member of the international community of ‘animal friends’ that circulates around those big international meeting halls. Her irreverent and self-deprecating sense of humour gave us so many happy and funny times to fondly remember. She was also tough, brave and smart. A beautiful soul inside and out, we shall certainly miss her and are thinking of ways to pay tribute to her achievements, and ensure her legacy of compassion lives on.


(1) WDC is a member of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Whales working group where we seek to work together with other UK NGOs in formulating policy to advance with the UK government. Claire and Mark both work for Humane Society International (HSI).
(2) Wildlife and Countryside Link.

Jo (left) at a meeting with  colleague, Claire Bass.
Jo (left) at a meeting with colleague, Claire Bass.


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