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Meet Thetford's wildlife photographer!

PUBLISHED: 08:50 22 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:17 07 July 2010

Katie Snowdon in Africa.

Katie Snowdon in Africa.

As a child, Katie Snowdon was mesmerised by the wildlife of Africa. But it was after reading a copy of Gentle Nature, by Julie Ward, the keen Suffolk photographer who was murdered during a trip to Kenya, that her interest in conservation was cemented.

Some of Katie's work.

As a child, Katie Snowdon was mesmerised by the wildlife of Africa. But it was after reading a copy of Gentle Nature, by Julie Ward, the keen Suffolk photographer who was murdered during a trip to Kenya, that her interest in conservation was cemented.

It left her determined to follow in Julie's footsteps. And now the 18-year-old is not only in Africa but is working at the Julie Ward centre at the Shamwari reserve in South Africa, helping the conservation effort and pursuing her other love: photography.

Katie hopes that, when she returns from the three-month project, she can hold an exhibition of her work in her home town of Thetford, where she is a member of an art group, to highlight the work of the Born Free Foundation and other conservation projects in Africa.

From the student lodge in which she is based in Eastern Cape, Katie said the experience had already outstripped all her expectations. “The placement here is for an organisation called Worldwide Experience, and I am working with the Born Free Foundation on the Shamwari reserve. We are doing a lot of different work and it is quite physical at times,” she added.

“We also do a lot of work with the local vets, which I love, such as helping dart animals, which has been pretty amazing. It is really rewarding to know you are helping out, not just with the community but with the animals.

“I am out here to work but I have managed to take lots of photographs when I am out on the reserve. I have seen so many incredible animals, and the opportunity to photograph them is what I always

dreamed of.”

The foundation has two sanctuaries in South Africa for lions and leopards that have been kept captive or rescued from zoos and circuses. The first opened in 1996 in the south of the reserve, where Katie is based, and it is there that, thanks to the friends and family of Julie, an education centre was built.

This month marks 20 years since Julie, 28 and from Bury St Edmunds, was killed while on a seven-month trip to Kenya. Her remains were discovered in the Masai Mara game reserve, where she was photographing animals. Initially, Kenyan officials said she had committed suicide or had been attacked by animals, but it was later admitted she had been murdered. Her father John has campaigned tirelessly to bring his daughter's killers to justice and has travelled to the country more than 100 times, launching his own investigation and constantly challenging the authorities. It is thought he has spent more than £1m in the past two decades, but he refuses to give up on finding those responsible.

Katie, a former Charles Burrell High School pupil, went to City College Norwich after her GCSEs and studied for her A-levels, including photography, while saving hard to raise the funds for her trip. “I was determined to do it. I had to raise £5,000, which I did through working at a Superdrug store and fundraising. It wasn't easy,” she said. Next year she will begin studying for a journalism degree at the University of Hertfordshire.


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