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News & Insight

The Natural History Museum of London’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year

By Brittany Smith on October 20th 2017

This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the Wildlife Photography of the Year and some of the entrants captured incredible moments that are rarely seen in wildlife. Some of the top recipients photographed images that feel like a sucker-punch to the gut and are tough to look at, which is precisely the point.

For centuries it has long been a life mission to do one’s part to make the world a better place and preserve the planet for generations to come. In today’s modern throwaway society we are seeing the destruction of natural resources and the direct impact it has on wildlife. Sadly we are bearing witness to the harsh reality of a consumer driven society and it is evident that all of the previous good is being unwound at an alarming pace.

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‘To make such a tragic scene almost majestic in its sculptural power deserves the highest award.’ – #WPY53 Judge Roz Kidman Cox. Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 is @brentstirton. Brent won the prestigious grand title for his compelling image Memorial to a species, which frames a recently shot and dehorned black rhino in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. The jury selected Brent’s image as the most memorable and striking from almost 50,000 entries. Brent’s picture highlights the urgent need for humanity to protect our planet and the species we share it with. Once the most numerous rhino species, black rhinos are now critically endangered because of poaching and the illegal international trade in rhino horn, one of the world’s most corrupt illegal wildlife networks. See Brent’s image and discover the full story in the new exhibition opening on Fri 20 Oct at the @natural_history_museum , London. Visit the link in our bio for tickets. #WildlifePhotographerOfTheYear #WPY#NaturePhotography #Wildlife #Nature#WildlifePhotography #Photography #Exhibition #NatGeo #PhotoOfTheDay #NaturalHistoryMuseum #Rhino #BlackRhino #WildlifeCrime #BrentStirton #SouthAfrica #GrandTtitleWinner #poaching #Criticallyendangered #NatGeo #wildlifeIssues #Photojournalism #Conservation

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This year’s top award was of a butchered black rhino in South Africa. Photographer Brent Stirton took this image as part of an ongoing investigation of the illegal trade of rhino products, particularly the horn. The horns are often smuggled into China or Vietnam where they have a very high street value on par with cocaine and gold.

“People may be disgusted, they may be horrified – but it draws you in and you want to know more, you want to know the story behind it. And you can’t escape it; it confronts you with what’s going on in the world.”
– Lewis Blackwell, chair of WPY

Passionate photographer @danielnelson_official is Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017. Congratulations, Daniël! ‘This intimate scene of a gorilla lounging on the forest floor is peaceful, a state of being we would wish for all these magnificent creatures.’ – Daniel Beltra, #WPY53 judge and past grand title winner. Daniël’s charismatic portrait depicts a young western lowland gorilla from the Republic of the Congo, lounging on the forest floor whilst feeding on a fleshy African breadfruit. The image captures the similarity between wild apes and humans, and the importance of the forest on which they depend. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, threatened by illegal hunting for bushmeat (facilitated by logging and mining roads), disease (notably the Ebola virus), habitat loss (to mines and palm oil plantations) and the impact of climate change. See Daniel’s image and discover the full story at the new exhibition opening at the @natural_history_museum, London on Fri 20 Oct. Visit the link in our bio for tickets. #WildlifePhotographerOfTheYear #WPY#NaturePhotography #Wildlife #Nature#WildlifePhotography #Photography #Exhibition #NatGeo #PhotoOfTheDay #Instagood #Instanature #NaturalHistoryMuseum #gorilla #YoungWildlifePhotographerOfTheYear #DanielNelson #WesternLowlandGorilla

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Daniël Nelson from the Netherlands took home the title of Young Photographer of the year with his image of a young ape in The Republic of Congo. The western lowland gorillas are critically endangered with their numbers dwindling in direct correlation to loss of habitat, disease and illegal hunting.

Among the single image awards is a photograph taken by photographer Bertie Gekoski. Aptly named “Palm Oil Survivors”, the capture showcases three generations of elephants making their way across an oil-palm plantation being cleared for replantation. The popularity of the palm tree oil industry has drastically reduced the natural habitat and many of the animals that stray onto the plantations meet their doom from either being shot or poisoned.

Palm Oil Survivors: Winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Photojournalist category, single image. I am overjoyed to share that my image has won this esteemed award. Seen as the ‘Wildlife Oscars’, it’s a competition I never for a second thought I’d win. However, whilst it’s a wonderful feeling, it’s an image I’d gladly not have taken. Hopefully you’ll read on to hear the story behind the shot, or even better, share this to raise awareness for the elephant situation here in Borneo. On the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, lives a dwindling population of elephants. Today, only around 1,500-2,000 of the world’s smallest sub-species of elephant remains. Although now a conservation priority, the threat of extinction looms. The Bornean elephant is losing its home to development and for the agricultural industry, particularly palm oil. This versatile vegetable oil is found in products worldwide – from toothpaste and shampoo, to cereal and ice cream – and forms a vital part of Malaysia’s economy. Yet its popularity doesn’t come without costs. Elephants have had to adapt to their changing environment and are frequently found in plantations, eating and destroying valuable crops. This has put them in the firing line and many are killed or injured every year. The @sz.tv team and I have spent the best part of two years documenting human-animal conflict in Borneo. This particular image was taken during filming for an upcoming documentary we are producing on the issue, On the Brink. We were on a collaring mission with scientists from Danau Girang Field Centre and the Wildlife Rescue Unit, two parties working tirelessly to protect these animals. With the light fading fast, we saw three generations of elephant pass through a palm terrace and I managed to fire away a couple of shots. Afterwards, we caught up with another herd, darted a matriarch and attached a satellite collar to her. The data generated will help researchers here to understand the elephants’ movements and mitigate future conflict. #wpy53 #wildlifephotographeroftheyear #borneo #winner #photojournalist #wildlife #palmoil #conservation

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The Wildlife Photographer of the Year has been home to some of the best wildlife photography. This year’s winning images bring awareness to greed and its daunting effect on the animals, foreshadowing what is to come if action is not taken.

Hopefully this brutal awareness compels people to once again take pride in the environment we live in and want to continue preserving it and its inhabitants for years to come. At the very least, more educated decisions can be made with future spending habits.

You can check out all the winners here.

Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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