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Member's Achievements

Many of our members are achieving great things. Pop back from time to time as we proudly highlight our members achievements.

Gabby Sykora


In February 2022, Beverly Joubert, globally recognized, award-winning filmmaker, conservationist, and National Geographic explorer-in-residence based in Botswana invited Gabby to represent her at the International Women's Blaze Trails Symposium. Gabby was a guest speaker at the symposium that celebrates women in science, exploration and conservation. At only 13 (at the time), she was naturally the youngest guest to have been hosted.

It taught Gabby so much about communication and getting the world to know that we, as the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts, budding photographers and inspired conservationists are eager to make a difference and hopefully make an impact in change. Watch Gabby's chat with Joe Grabowski.

Mark Heystek & Justin Ponder


Justin and Mark soon became valued members of the Lakes Bird Club, helping to lead outings and contributing write-ups to the Malachite newsletter. They have assisted with CWAC counts on Knysna Lagoon and CAR counts in the Uniondale area of the Little Karoo. When Tim Carr started organising pelagic trips from Knysna in December, they were there to help with ‘chumming’. On Birding Big Day, they joined Tim on the Ludwig’s Bustards team, which attained second place in the Western Cape with 212 species. During the recent hard lockdown, the club organised a challenge for members to record birds from their own properties and Mark and Justin took top places. They performed similarly well in the 2020 Garden Route and Klein Karoo 150-kilometre Challenge. On the club’s WhatsApp group, they are usually the first to identify unknown birds correctly.
In mid-December last year, while they were identifying waders at Voëlvlei, an ephemeral wetland south of Mossel Bay, two birds in particular stood out. The boys took photos and sent them to Trevor Hardaker for confirmation that they had discovered a pair of Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Trevor concurred with this mega find, only the 18th record of the species in southern Africa and the first time that two birds together had been recorded here. More than 100 birders came to twitch the sandpipers – a dream come true for the youngsters.
Mark also has a talent for writing poetry and has produced some birding shirts with a charming Cape Batis logo, drawn by him. Justin takes excellent photos and for Christmas 2020 produced two calendars, of which he sold nearly 200 copies. He used the proceeds to purchase his own Vortex binoculars. These are two youngsters whose enthusiastic interest in the natural world, especially birds, is matched only by their determination to pursue that interest.

Justin Ponder and Mark Heystek received the Bird Life Owlet Award in 2021. In 2018 the Lakes Bird Club welcomed its first Youth members: Mark Heystek from George and Justin Ponder from Sedgefield. Growing up together, the boys developed a great love for the natural world and in 2017 they discovered birds. Soon afterwards, they met up with Peter Ginn and Christiaan Viljoen, who mentored them and encouraged them to join the bird club, where they could meet like-minded people.

Juan van den Heever


Juan was Semi Finalist in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year and has a great many other accolades to his name. Finalist in 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 15-17 Years Catagory. Highly Honored Youth Photographer in 2012 and 2013 Windland Smith Rice Nature’s Best Photographic Competition. Overall Youth Grand Title Winner in 2014 Windland Smith Rice Nature’s Best Photographic Competition. Finalist in 2015 Big Picture Nature Photography Competition. Finalist in 2014 Memorial María Luisa Photo and Video Competition. Overall Youth Grand Title Winner, Runner-Up and Third Runner-Up in 2015 Natures Best Africa Photographic Competition and Featured Photographer in Outdoorphoto’s “On Safari with Outdoorphoto” Coffee Table Book.

Cathan Moore


Cathan Moore entered the Natures Best Photography Competition endorsed by the African Wildlife Foundation called the Benjamin Mpaka Africa Wild Awards back in April 2021 and was the Category - Youth in Africa category winner. Cathan received his award at the official ceremony in Nairobi Kenya. The images from this competition will be displayed in the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles before heading off to exhibitions around the world. The winning image is shown here to the right.


Jaime Freeman

Jaime 2.JPG

In July '22, I was going through some of my favourite photos to choose a few to enter into the 2022 Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards. One of the few images that I entered was a photo of a lionesses sitting in a tree, foaming at the mouth. Anyway, a few months passed & I received an email from Natures Best Photography titled “Good news!” I couldn’t quite believe it, but I had just been informed that my image of the lioness was selected as the winning image in the category ‘Youth In Africa’.


I was invited to the Mkapa awards ceremony in Kenya, where my image was displayed and put up in the Nyarobi National Museum in Kenya. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the awards ceremony in Kenya in person, but it was still incredible to be a part of it! On top of all of this, I received a cash prize and a Mkapa Awards 2022 elephant sculpture.

The entire experience was absolutely incredible, and I am truly grateful to all those who made it possible.

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