Highlighting the fragility, resilience and beauty of the natural world, this year’s images bring the biodiversity crisis – and power of conservation – into sharp focus
A polar bear hanging out of a window, a bonobo cradling a mongoose, a giraffe hiding under a railway bridge – these are some of the stunning images entered into this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Among the more unusual submissions was Dmitry Kokh’s shot of a polar bear taken in the Russian high Arctic (main image). His boat approached Kolyuchin Island, an abandoned island since 1992. He was shocked to see movement in one of the houses. The ghost town was home to nearly two dozen polar bears, which were visible through binoculars.
Polar bears search for food in abandoned structures. The sea ice is being reduced by climate change, making it increasingly difficult for polar bears to hunt. This puts them closer to human settlements, which allows them to scavenge.
More unusual still, perhaps, is Christian Ziegler’s picture of a male bonobo holding a mongoose pup (below), deep in the rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Christian was assisting in the tracking of a group endangered great apes. He recalled setting out before sunrise and wading through flooded forest. “The bonobo held and stroked the little mongoose for more than an hour,” he said.
The truth is that the situation could have started darker. Bonobos are omnivores, and eat mostly fruit. However, they also hunt occasionally. The mongoose pup – eventually released unharmed – may have been taken when its mother was killed.
Images that show the resilience and power of conservation, as well as reminders about the difficulties wildlife face, are scattered among reminders. Cue Richard Robinson’s spectacular underwater shot of a Southern right whale (below), taken off the coast of the Auckland Islands, an archipelago in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s population of southern right whales, known as ‘tohorā’ in Māori, were hunted to near extinction by European whalers in the 1800s, then by Soviet whalers in the 1900s. The population is now protected. It has increased from a small number, with 13 breeding females at its peak, to over 2000 individuals.
“These inspiring images convey human impact on the natural world in a way that words cannot – from the urgency of declining biodiversity to the inspiring bounce back of a protected species,” said Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum in London. The museum produces the Wildlife Photographer of Year.
Chris Packham, wildlife TV presenter and conservationist, will announce the winners at an awards ceremony on 11 October. Three days later, the Natural History Museum will open an exhibition featuring 100 of the most outstanding images. It will then be touring the UK and internationally.
“What’s stayed with me is not just the extraordinary mix of subjects in this year’s collection – a vast panorama of the natural world – but the emotional strength of so many of the pictures,” said chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox.
Gallery: A selection of highly-recommended images
Main image: Dmitry Kokh/Wildlife Photography of the Year
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