From the sprawling plains of game reserves across Southern Africa, where majestic wildlife beckons me to visit more regularly, my name is Gabby Sykora, a 15 year old aspiring photographer and conservationist. I have always been captivated by the breathtaking beauty of our incredible country. From the towering elephants to the stealthy leopards and the colourful array of birds that adorn our clear blue skies, the wonders of nature constantly fill me with awe and wonder.
Driven by my passion for both photography and conservation, I had a vision. I dreamed of uniting young minds, like mine, who share the same enthusiasm for wildlife and the environment. I yearned to create a community where we could explore our shared interests, learn from one another, and work together to raise awareness about the importance of conservation.
With unwavering determination, at the age of just 13, I set my plan into motion. I reached out to fellow teenagers across South Africa (via social media), who had shown an affinity for photography and a deep love for nature. I shared my vision of creating a young wildlife photographers’ group, a sanctuary where we could channel our passion and ultimately make a difference.
Word quickly spread throughout social media, and soon, my group, aptly named “The Young Wildlife Photographers of Southern Africa,” began to flourish. The group’s members ranged from diverse backgrounds, each possessing a unique story and perspective. There was Ethan, a nine-year-old boy from Cape Town, in the Western Cape, who had a deep yearning for learning all there was to know about birds. Then there was Cathan, who had already cemented his name in the wildlife industry having won the Benjamin Mkapa Youth Photographer of the Year award in 2021. It is no longer about just me and my vision, but rather about each and every member that is part of our incredible community.
Myself and my hundreds of newfound friends all try to regularly embark on thrilling adventures across Southern Africa, with some traveling further afield, all while sharing one thing in common, we are armed with our cameras, ready to capture the raw beauty of our country and its inhabitants. I knew our journey could not be solely about photography though and knew that true change would come from sharing our experiences and inspiring others. We created a group within the YWP, that focusses on conservation and preservation of our heritage and are trying hard to get into collaborations with already established conservation entities. The group now showcases our close on 600 active member’s awe-inspiring photographs, some alongside thought-provoking messages about conservation and the urgent need to protect the natural world, on our social media platforms.
As our message has spread, so has our impact. Having a great support group dealing with our daily features that can also be seen on our website, for example: Tips and Tricks, Photographers Perfect Places, The Gadget Grind, Nurturing Nature, and Tales from the Bush, to name but a few, each one either aiding members or highlighting them. We hope to also, as an admin group, reach out to schools and other organisations, hopefully igniting a flame of inspiration within the hearts of our peers, too.
Our group’s online presence has flourished, attracting attention from renowned photographers, conservation organizations, and even high-profile conservationists, themselves. We are becoming a force to be reckoned with, and hope that our youthful voices will resonate far and wide. We want our passion and dedication to inspire people from all walks of life to take action in preserving Southern Africa’s precious ecosystems. We would love for Governments and large conservation organizations to take notice, recognizing the power of the youth in driving the change.
My dream has certainly become a reality, and as I look at the unified group of young conservationists and photographers that we are today, I feel a great sense of pride and hope. Together, we have proven that age is no barrier to making a difference. All of what YWP has become, would never have been possible if it were not for incredible supporters like Werner and Sapmok. Sapmok have played such an important role in always being there to support YWP and its members. The Young Wildlife Photographers of SA has become a beacon of inspiration, and I know that the collective passion and determination of our members will shape the future of conservation in Southern Africa, leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.