Gab Mejia, a 24-year-old photographer known for capturing the struggle between development and conservation, on Wednesday became the first Filipino to receive the 2021 President’s Youth Award of the World Wildlife Fund.
Mejia, a National Geographic lensman and a Manila Times columnist, was recognized for his "outstanding achievements, dedication, and committment to the natural environment; his passion and leadership skills for the conservation and protection of wetlands and wildlife; and his advocacy for the climate and shared cultures".
Mejia was given the top accolade alongside Mutetelenu Kalama of Zambia, a 29-year-old social development activist. He is also the co-founder of global network, Youth Engaged in Wetlands, whose membership spans 30 countries.
“As we collectively face the pressing issues and injustices that continue to prevail against nature, the environment, and society— all I dream is for a present and future where all lives can coexist together in harmony. A just and sustainable world where wildlife, indigenous people, underserved communities, disempowered minorities, and the youth can all thrive in the one and only home we call our planet,” Mejia told WWF.
“We are living today in an unprecedented and crucial time, where hope, action, and justice is needed now more than ever. Let this award be an inspiration to every single Filipino and citizen of our planet, young or old, to continue fighting the good fight," he added.
The two awardees received recognition in an online ceremony that was also attended by veteran broadcaster of the natural world, David Attenborough, who received the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award as conferred by Britain's Prince Charles himself.
Since 2012, WWF International's President’s Youth Award has been recognizing young conservationists from around the world.