Winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 revealed

Every year fans of the natural world are wowed by images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is fiercely contested by entrants from across the globe.

But the winning shots, featured in an exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum, are much more than a collection of beautiful images -they also have an important message to communicate.

Increasingly, the competition has focused on conservation issues, and this year’s overall winner, a bloodied photograph of a de-horned black rhino in South Africa, is a powerful reminder of the threats facing our wildlife.

Scientist and presenter Liz Bonnin, who hosted the awards ceremony at the gallery last night, has praised photojournalist Brent Stirton’s image for being “a powerful and disturbing message from a master storyteller, shining a light not only on a species being pushed to the brink of extinction, but also on the issues of human morality and compassion for the animals we share this planet with”.

Here are some of our favourite images from the new exhibition…

Grand title winner 2017

Memorial to a species by Brent Stirton, South Africa

Also winner of The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Story category

A black rhino bull is seen dead, poached for its horns less than 24 hours earlier at Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa (Brent Stirton/PA)

This was one of 30 crime scenes photographed by photojournalist Brent as part of his story on rhino poaching. The killers were probably from a local community but working to order, and the horn would have been smuggled out of the country by a middleman. If poaching continues at the current rate, the species could face extinction.

Winner of Wildlife Photojournalist: Single image

Palm-oil survivors by Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski, UK/USA

Asian elephants on a palm-oil plantation in Sabah, Borneo (Aaron Gekoski/PA)

The palm-oil industry is a major cause of deforestation in Sabah, Borneo, where only 8% of protected intact forest remains. Often elephants wander into the plantations to feed, and come into conflict with humans. But our insatiable demand for palm oil (used in half the products sold on supermarket shelves) suggests the problem will only get worse.

Winner of Black and White

Polar pas de deux by Eilo Elvinger, Luxembourg

Polar bears in Svalbard (Eilo Elvinger/PA)

From her ship, anchored in the icy waters off Svalbard, Eilo spotted a polar bear and her two-year-old cub in the distance. Nearing the ship, they were diverted to a patch of snow soaked in leakage from the vessel’s kitchen and began to lick it. Eilo framed her shot tightly, choosing black and white to “reflect the pollution as a shadow cast on the pristine environment”.

Winner of Behaviour: Mammals

Giant gathering by Tony Wu, USA

A pod of sperm whales in Sri Lanka (Tony Wu/PA)

Tony has spent 17 years studying and photographing sperm whale. He encountered this giant pod of the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. Oily secretions and thick clouds of dung posed a real challenge by smearing his camera-housing dome.

Winner of Animals in Their Environment

The night raider by Marcio Cabral, Brazil

A giant anteater feeds from a termite mound glowing with click beetle larvae (Marcio Cabral/PA)

For three seasons, Marcio had camped out in Brazil’s Cerrado region, in Emas National Park, waiting for the right conditions to capture the light display of bioluminescent click beetle larvae trying to lure termite prey. Then out of the darkness, a giant anteater appeared.

Winner of Earth’s Environments

The ice monster by Laurent Ballesta, France

The underside of an iceberg photographed in East Antarctica (Laurent Ballesta/PA)

Laurent and his expedition team were working out of the French Dumont d’Urville scientific base in East Antarctica, recording with film and photography the impact of global warming. Ice shelves in some parts of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet are melting faster than scientists had previously assumed, threatening a movement of land ice into the sea and raising sea levels dramatically. When Laurent spotted this relatively small iceberg, he saw the chance to realize a long-held ambition – to show for the first time the underwater part. Impossible to capture in one frame, the picture is made up of 147 stitched images.

Winner of Plants and fungi

Tapestry of life by Dorin Bofan, Romania

Hamnøy village in Lofoten Islands, Norway, looking towards the slopes found east of Olstinden peak (Dorin Bofan/PA)

Dorin was contemplating the immense landscape when the clouds parted, allowing shafts of sunlight to fall on the great walls of metamorphic rock, lighting up the swathes of vegetation coating the canyon and its slopes. This mountain variety of downy birch is relatively small, and here in its autumn colours, is glowing gold.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 exhibition runs from October 20, 2017 – May 28, 2018 at the Natural History Museum. Tickets cost £14 for adults and £8 for children.

 

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