Curious meerkats, leaping squirrels, an elusive tapir, a brown bear taking a nap in a tree next to an eagle and a tender moment between two lions.
These are some of the subjects that feature in the 25-strong shortlist for the People’s Choice Award, which is part of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Organisers sifted through more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries before deciding on a 25 image shortlist for the award and now the public is being asked to vote for the winner.
The vote opens today and closes at 2pm on Tuesday, February 2, 2022. The top-ranked photo will go on display at an exhibition in ‘s Natural History Museum until June 5, 2022.
Some of the photos don’t make for easy viewing, though. One heartbreaking shot shows the rescue of an Amazon river dolphin and another captures a kangaroo and her joey framed by a fire’s destruction.
Dr Natalie Cooper, researcher at the Natural History Museum and member of the judging panel, said: ‘The People’s Choice Award offers striking observations of nature and our relationship with it, sparking our curiosity and strengthening our connection with the natural world. It’s an incredible challenge to pick just one of these images, so we’re looking forward to discovering which wild moment emerges as the public’s favourite.’
This group of meerkats in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in South Africa are very relaxed around people. In fact, they mostly completely ignored Thomas’s presence, being way too preoccupied with lounging, hunting, grooming and fighting. He was therefore able to get in close and use a wide angle lens to include the arid savannah and mountains they call home
In the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province, China, Qiang watched as two male golden pheasants continuously swapped places on this trunk – their movements akin to a silent dance in the snow. The birds are native to China, where they inhabit dense forests in mountainous regions. Although brightly coloured, they are shy and difficult to spot, spending most of their time foraging for food on the dark forest floor, only flying to evade predators or to roost in very high trees during the night
One morning Minghui noticed a group of ants working together in perfect unity to restrain a green katydid in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in Yunnan Province, China. These remarkable ants don’t always kill, they have been observed ‘farming’ certain types of insects, including leaf hoppers. The ants offer leaf hoppers protection from predators and parasites so that they can feed on the sweet sap the leaf hoppers excrete
Iberian lynx are one of the world’s most endangered cats due to habitat loss, decreasing food sources, car hits and illegal hunting. But thanks to conservation efforts the species is recovering and can be found in small areas of Portugal and Spain. Antonio captured this image while leading a conservation project based around photography in Peñalajo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain. He knew a family of lynx used this waterhole to drink, so he rigged up a hide close by
It was the schooling barracudas at Blue Corner, Palau, in the western Pacific, that grabbed Yung Sen Wu’s attention while diving in the turquoise seascape. He had been swimming with them for four days, but their formation constantly changed shape and he could not find the perfect angle. On the fifth day his luck changed when the fish seemed to accept him into the group. Surrounded by the barracudas, he started to imagine how one fish sees another while swimming, and this was the picture he wanted. The fish were fast, and he had to swim hard to keep his place in the school. At the end of an exhausting 50 minutes, he got his perfect ‘fish eye’ view
Black bear cubs will often climb trees, where they wait safely for their mother to return with food. Here, in the depths of the temperate rainforest of Anan in Alaska, this little cub decided to take an afternoon nap on a moss-covered branch under the watchful eye of a juvenile bald eagle. The eagle had been sitting in this pine tree for hours and Jeroen found the situation extraordinary
Zhang Qiang was visiting China’s Qinling Mountains to observe the behaviour of the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey. When it is time to rest, the females and young huddle together for warmth and protection. This image perfectly captures that moment of intimacy. The young monkey’s unmistakable blue face nestled in between two females, their striking golden-orange fur dappled in light
Dozens of plains zebra had showed up to drink at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Packed closely together and moving as one, the zebra lowered their heads to get water and, almost immediately, robotically lifted them again to scan for danger. This went on for five minutes. Focusing hard, Lucas’s aim was to capture only one with its head up and, just before the herd left, he got the image he thinks best showcases these iconic black-and-white striped animals
For grizzly bears of the spot on the Fishing Branch River in Yukon, Canada this open water offers a final chance to feast before hibernating. It was averaging around -30°C (-22°F) and Andy had been waiting and hoping that one particular female bear would use this log to cross the stream. Eventually she did just that and he got the picture he’d envisioned – her fur, wet from fishing, had frozen into icicles and ‘you could hear them tinkle as she walked past’
During a visit to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Ashleigh McCord captured this tender moment between a pair of male lions. At first, she had been taking pictures of only one of the lions, and the rain was just a light sprinkle, although the second had briefly approached and greeted his companion before choosing to walk away. But as the rain turned into a heavy downpour, the second male returned and sat, positioning his body as if to shelter the other. Shortly after they rubbed faces and continued to sit nuzzling for some time
Peter looked on as a herd of elephants closed ranks, pushing their young into the middle of the group for protection. A bull elephant had been trying to separate a newborn calf from its mother. Peter was photographing the herd in Addo Elephant Reserve, South Africa, when the newborn let out a shriek. The herd reacted instantly – blowing loud calls, flapping ears and then surrounding the young and reaching out their trunks for reassurance
Jan took great pleasure in watching this blackbird from his front door, in his home-town of Greifswald, Germany. It was spring and the blackbird had chosen an old garden hut in which to build her nest. Quietly and secretly she raised her young in this garden idyll. With this image Jan wanted to highlight that we don’t have to go far to experience the beauty of nature – sometimes something as simple as a blackbird making her home in a rundown hut is enough
In 2017, California had twice its normal annual rainfall. With the lakes full, the grebes built nests and lay eggs. They built floating nests at the edge of shallow water among the reeds or rushes. In this picture, the chicks hitch a cosy ride on a parent’s back soon after hatching. It was taken a few days after a storm which sadly washed away almost all of the grebes nests
Santa Croce Lake is a natural lake located in the province of Belluno, Italy. In winter 2019 Cristiano noticed the water was unusually high and the willow plants were partially submerged, creating a play of light and reflections. Waiting for colder conditions he captured the scene in icy stillness
Michiel took this photo of Dantita, as she is fondly known, at the foothills of Braulio Carrillo National Park, close to San José in central Costa Rica. The Baird’s tapir or ‘gardeners of the forest’ are extremely important to their natural habitat, with some seeds only germinating after passing through the animal. But due to threats from deforestation and hunting, there are estimated to be only 6,000 individuals left in the wild
Satyr tragopans, a rare species of Asian pheasant, are widely hunted for food and plumage, and are normally skittish and very shy. But in this village near Punakha, Bhutan, the birds appear at ease and perfectly relaxed in the presence of the people who live there. Dhritiman had been trying to photograph the satyr tragopan in India since 2008, but the birds would always run away the minute they spotted him. Upon hearing of communities in Bhutan coexisting harmoniously with the species he knew he had to witness it for himself
While out on a night walk in the Amazon rainforest near Tena, Ecuador, Javier spotted this little female thorned heart orb weaver spider delicately constructing her egg case. Hanging from a strong silk thread, these female spiders spend hours encasing their eggs in a silken cocoon, which may contain up to several hundred eggs. On this dark night, the egg case resembled a pearly white full moon
Marco Gaiotti was watching this little Arctic fox as it incessantly called another nearby. Gradually he noticed the fox’s wet breath was quickly freezing in the air after each call. It was late winter in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, and the cold arctic air was -35°C (-31°F). Photographing arctic foxes is often frustrating, as they are normally running around fast in search of food, but this one was very relaxed and let Marco get close enough to focus on it, with the light glowing perfectly in the background
Here, in a forest enclosure, a keeper takes care of babies – they are encouraged to mix with others of a similar age, make nests and forage for food. Due to overexploitation – industrial logging and land clearing for plantation development – the rainforests of Borneo are disappearing fast. This means endemic species such as the orangutan are under serious threat. International Animal Rescue rehabilitates orphaned or injured orangutans
2020 saw fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands more than double year on year from 2019 and roughly 80 per cent of Encontros das Águas State Park was burnt. The park is known for its large jaguar population and Ernane was there documenting the fires when this jaguar and his brother crossed the Rio Três Irmãos (Three Brothers River) nearby. After reaching the opposite bank, the jaguar rolled in the ash left behind by the desolation of days before, leaving only his face uncovered, his now black body mirroring his charred surroundings
Taking care of a young orangutan requires a lot of energy. Maxime spent more than one hour observing this mother in the Pinus Jantho Nature Reserve of Sumatra, Indonesia, trying to keep her excitable baby with her in the nest. Since 2011 the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program has released more than 120 confiscated apes into the reserve. This mother, Marconi, was once held captive as an illegal pet, but was nursed back to health and released in 2011. In 2017 she was spotted with a wild born baby, Masen, a symbol of hope for the future population
Jo-Anne McArthur flew to Australia in early 2020 to document the stories of animals affected by the devastating bushfires that were sweeping through the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Working alongside Animals Australia, an animal protection organisation, she was given access to burn sites, rescues and veterinary missions. This eastern grey kangaroo and her joey pictured near Mallacoota, Victoria, were among the lucky ones
Karl was in the Cairngorms, Scotland, with a friend who took him to a forest where red squirrels were used to being fed. They placed hazelnuts on opposite branches of two trees and Karl then positioned his camera on a tripod between the branches facing the direction a squirrel might jump. Setting his camera to automatic focus, he waited in camouflage gear behind a tree, holding a remote control. After less than an hour, two squirrels appeared
A female giant anteater was foraging around a huge open plain very late one afternoon in the Pantanal, Brazil, when Wim suddenly noticed she had a youngster on her back. He instinctively grabbed his camera and slowly crept up to a termite mound in the distance, which was in the general direction she was moving in. Sitting quietly he waited for her to make her way over
Jaime watched on as Federico Mosquera, a biologist from the Omacha Foundation, Colombia, soothed an Amazon river dolphin. These dolphins are extremely tactile animals and direct contact calms them – keeping them hydrated when out of the water is also extremely important. The team from Omacha and WWF were transporting the dolphin to a temporary veterinarian facility in Puerto Nariño, Colombia, to install a GPS tag in its dorsal fin. The project is part of a broader scientific attempt to understand river dolphin health and migratory patterns
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