The winners of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition have been announced, with Dutch photographer Marsel van Oosten taking the top prize for his extraordinary image, titled The Golden Couple.
The image shows a pair of golden snub-nosed monkeys in the temperate forest of China’s Qinling Mountains, the only habitat for these endangered primates.
Lounging leopard by Skye Meaker, South Africa – grand title winner, 15-17 years
Old Mathoja was dozing when they finally found her, lying along a low branch of a nyala tree in Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve. Mathoja means ‘the one that walks with a limp’ injured when she was a cub, but otherwise she is a healthy, calm eight-year-old. The morning light was poor, leaves kept blowing across her face, and her eyes were only ever open briefly, making it hard for Skye to compose the shot he was after. Finally, a shaft of light gave a glint to her eyes, helping him to create his memorable portrait.
The golden couple by Marsel van Oosten, The Netherlands – grand title winner, Animal portraits
A male Qinling golden snub-nosed monkey rests on a stone, joined by a female from his group. Both are watching an altercation down the valley between the lead males of two other groups in the 50-strong troop. It’s spring in the temperate forest of China’s Qinling mountains, the only place where these endangered monkeys live. To show both a male’s beautiful pelage and striking blue face, Marsel had to shoot at an angle from the back. It took many days observing the group to achieve his goal.
Hellbent by David Herasimtschuk, US – winner, Behaviour: amphibians and reptiles
It was not looking good for the northern water snake, clamped tightly in the jaws of a hungry hellbender, but it was a remarkable find for David. Drifting downstream in Tennessee’s Tellico River, in search of freshwater life (as he had done for countless hours over the past seven years), he was thrilled to spot the mighty amphibian with its struggling prey. The hellbender has declined significantly because of habitat loss and degradation and its presence indicates a healthy freshwater ecosystem.
Bloodthirsty by Thomas P Peschak, Germany/South Africa – winner, Behaviour: birds
When rations run short on Wolf Island, in the remote northern Galápagos, the sharp-beaked ground finches become vampires. Their sitting targets are Nazca boobies and other large birds. The finches rely on a scant diet of seeds and insects, which regularly dries up, so they drink blood to survive. ‘I’ve seen more than half a dozen finches drinking from a single Nazca booby,’ says Tom. Rather than leave their nests the boobies tolerate the vampires, and the blood loss doesn’t seem to cause permanent harm.
Mud-rolling mud-dauber by Georgina Steytler, Australia – winner, Behaviour: invertebrates
It was a hot summer day, and the waterhole at Walyormouring Nature Reserve, Western Australia, was buzzing. Georgina had got there early to photograph birds, but her attention was stolen by the industrious mud-dauber wasps. They were females, digging in the soft mud at the water’s edge, then rolling the mud into balls to create egg chambers for their nearby nests. A female builds her external nest completely out of mud, cylindrical chamber by chamber, which cement together as the mud hardens.
Kuhirwa mourns her baby by Ricardo Núñez Montero, Spain – winner, Behaviour: mammals
Kuhirwa, a young female of the Nkuringo mountain gorilla family in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, would not give up on her dead baby. What Ricardo first thought to be a bundle of roots turned out to be the tiny corpse. Guides told him that she had given birth during bad weather and the baby probably died of cold. At first Kuhirwa had cuddled and groomed the body, carrying it piggyback. Weeks later, she started to eat what was left of the corpse, behaviour the guide had only seen once before.
Pipe owls by Arshdeep Singh
10 Years And Under category – This shot is taken by another youngster, Arshdeep Singh. He won his section for this photo taken just outside Kapurthala, a city in the Indian state of Punjab. He says: “I saw the owls fly in the tube and I told my dad. He said that’s not possible, but he stopped the car. We had to wait 20 or 30 minutes until they came out again, and then I took the picture.”
Desert relic by Jen Guyton by Germany/US – winner, Plants and Fungi
The cones of a female welwitschia reach for the skies over the Namib Desert. These desert survivors have an extraordinary biology. Male and female plants both produce distinctive cones. Each plant comprises just two leaves, a stem base and a tap root. The woody stem stops growing at the apex but widens with age, forming a concave disc, but the two original seedling leaves continue to grow, gradually splitting and fraying. The largest specimens span more than 8 metres (26 feet) and may be 1,000 years old or more.
Night flight by Michael Patrick O’Neill, US – winner, Underwater
On a night dive over deep water in the Atlantic, far off Florida’s Palm Beach, Michael achieved a long-held goal, to photograph a flying fish so as to convey the speed, motion and beauty of this ‘fantastic creature’. By day, these fish are almost impossible to approach. Living at the surface, they are potential prey for a great many animals, including tuna, marlin and mackerel. At night, they are more approachable, moving slowly as they feed on planktonic animals close to the surface.
The vision by Jan van der Greef, The Netherlands – winner, Black and White
Perfectly balanced, its wings vibrating, its tail opening and closing, with its tiny feet touching the spike for just an instant, an eastern mountaineer hummingbird siphons nectar from the florets of a red-hot-poker plant. For a number of days Jan had observed the birds in the garden of his hotel in southern Peru. He noticed that an eastern mountaineer – a species found only in Peru– would rotate around the red-hot-poker as it fed. As it moved behind a spike and its tail closed, a beautiful cross appeared.
Bed of seals by Cristobal Serrano
Animals In Their Environment category – Cristobal Serrano from Spain took this shot of crabeater seals resting on an ice floe off the Antarctic Peninsula. The seals have a close relationship with the sea-ice because it is the habitat that provides shelter and food (algae) for krill, tiny crustaceans. And it is the krill that are the main food source for the seals.
The sad clown by Joan de la Malla, Spain – winner, Wildlife photojournalism
Timbul, a young long-tailed macaque, puts his hand to his face to try to relieve the discomfort of the mask he has to wear. His owner is training him to stand upright so that he can add more stunts to his repertoire (Badut on his hat means clown). Macaque street shows are banned in several cities, but still take place in Indonesia. Joan spent a long time gaining the trust of the monkey owners in Surabaya, Java. ‘They are not bad people,’ he says, ‘They just need other opportunities to make a living.’
Signature tree by Alejandro Prieto, Mexico – from winning photo story Gunning for the Jaguar
A male jaguar sharpens his claws and scratches his signature into a tree on the edge of his mountain territory in the Sierra de Vallejo in Mexico’s western state of Nayarit. The boundary-post has been chosen with care – the tree has soft bark, allowing for deep scratch marks that are a clear warning, backed by pungent scent, not to trespass. Alejandro set up his custom-built camera trap six metres away and after eight months the jaguar eventually returned to refresh his mark.
Dream duel by Michel d’Oultremont, Belgium – winner, rising star portfolio award (from a portfolio of six images)
As storm clouds gathered over the Ardennes forest in Belgium, Michel hid behind a tree under a camouflage net. It was the best spot for viewing any action on the ridge but he needed luck for all the elements to come together. The sound of two red deer stags, roaring in competition over females, echoed through the trees, but infuriatingly the action was taking place further down the slope. At last the stags appeared on the ridge, antlers locked, silhouetted.
Mother defender by Javier Aznar González de Rueda, Spain – winner, wildlife photographer portfolio award (from a portfolio of six images)
A large Alchisme treehopper guards her family as the nymphs feed on the stem of a nightshade plant in El Jardín de los Sueños reserve in Ecuador. Unlike many treehoppers, which enlist the help of other insects (mostly ants), this species is guarded by the mother alone. She lays her eggs on the underside of a nightshade leaf, covers them with a thin secretion and then shields the clutch with her tiny frame.