The Natural History Museum i London anordnar varje år tävlingen Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Nedan är några av de vinnande bidragen från årets tävling. Fram till i maj nästa år kommer museet ha en utställning där fotona visas upp.

 

Memorial to a species
Brent Stirton, South Africa
Grand title winner 2017 (Also winner of The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Story category)

The killers were probably from a local community but working to order. Entering the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve at night, they shot the black rhino bull using a silencer. Working fast, they hacked off the two horns and escaped before being discovered by the reserve’s patrol. The horns would have been sold to a middleman and smuggled out of South Africa, probably via Mozambique, to China or Vietnam. For the reserve, it was grim news, not least because this is where conservationists bred back from near extinction the subspecies that is now the pre-eminent target for poachers, the southern white rhino. For the photographer, the crime scene was one of more than 30 he visited in the course of covering this tragic story.

 

Palm-oil survivors
Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski, UK/USA
Winner 2017, Wildlife Photojournalist: Single image

In eastern Sabah, on the island of Borneo, three generations of Bornean elephants edge their way across the terraces of an oil-palm plantation being cleared for replanting. Palm oil is a lucrative global export, and in the Malaysian state of Sabah, where the majority of rainforest has already been logged (only 8 per cent of protected intact forest remains), the palm-oil industry is still a major driver of deforestation, squeezing elephants into smaller and smaller pockets of forest. Increasingly they wander into oil-palm plantations to feed, where they come into conflict with humans, with elephants being shot or poisoned. (In 2013, poison used in a plantation killed a herd of 14 elephants –the sole survivor, a calf, was found caressing its dead mother’s tusks.) Reports of elephant attacks on humans are also on the rise. Today, the fragmented population of Bornean elephants –regarded as a subspecies of the Asian elephant that may have been isolated on the island of Borneo for more than 300,000 years–is estimated to number no more than 1,000–2,000. Elephants form strong social bonds, and females often stay together for their entire lives. Here, the group probably comprises a matriarch, two of her daughters and her grand-calf. With the light fading fast, Bertie acted quickly to frame an image that symbolizes the impact that our insatiable demand for palm oil (used in half of the products on supermarket shelves) has on wildlife. ‘They huddled together, dwarfed by adesolate and desecrated landscape. A haunting image,’ he says.

 

Giant gathering
Tony Wu, USA
Winner 2017, Behaviour: Mammals

Dozens of sperm whales mingled noisily off Sri Lanka’s northeast coast, stacked as far down as Tony could see. This was part of something special–a congregation of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of social units, like a kind of gathering of the clans. Sperm whales are intelligent, long-lived and gregarious, and groups play, forage, interact and communicate in different ways and have distinctive cultures. Aggregations like this could be a critical part of their rich, social lives but are rarely reported. Some two thirds of the sperm whale population was wiped out during the peak of industrialized whaling in the twentieth century. But commercial whaling was banned in 1986, and this kind of major gathering could be ‘a sign that populations are recovering’, says Tony, who has spent 17 years studying and photographing sperm whales. Tactile contact is an important part of sperm whale social life, but rubbing against each other also helps slough off dead skin. So the water was filled with a blizzard of skin flakes. More photographically challenging was the smearing of the camera‑housing dome with oily secretions from the whales and thick clouds of dung released as they emerged from the gigantic cluster. But through continually swimming to reposition himself and the tolerance of the whales themselves, Tony got a unique photograph of the mysterious Indian Ocean gathering.

 

The ancient ritual
Brian Skerry, USA
Winner 2017, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles

Like generations before her, the leatherback turtle shifts her considerable weight with her outsized, strong front flippers and moves steadily back to the ocean. Leatherbacks are the largest, deepest-diving and widest-ranging sea turtles, the only survivors of an evolutionary lineage that diverged from other sea turtles 100–150 million years ago. Much of their lives are spent at sea, shrouded in mystery. When mature, their leathery shells now averaging 1.6 metres long, females return to the shores where they themselves hatched to lay their own eggs. Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge on St Croix, in the US Virgin Islands, provides critical nesting habitat, successfully managed for decades. Elsewhere, leatherbacks are not so lucky, threatened primarily by fisheries bycatch as well as factors including human consumption, coastal development and climate change. The females each lay about 100 eggs in nests dug deep in the sand. Some 60 days later, the hatchlings emerge, their sex influenced by incubation temperatures (hotter nests produce more females). Nesting turtles are not seen every night at Sandy Point, and were often too far away for Brian to reach. When after two weeks he got the encounter he wanted–under clear skies, with no distant city lights –he hand-held a long exposure under the full moon, artfully evoking a primordial atmosphere in this timeless scene.

 

Polar pas de deux
Eilo Elvinger, Luxembourg
Winner 2017, Black and white

From her ship, anchored in the icy waters off Svalbard, in Arctic Norway, Eilo spotted a polar bear and her two-year-old cub in the distance, slowly drawing closer. Polar bears are known as hunters, mainly of seals –they can smell prey from nearly a kilometre away –but they are also opportunists. Nearing the ship, they were diverted to a patch of snow soaked in leakage from the vessel’s kitchen and began to lick it. ‘I was ashamed of our contribution to the immaculate landscape’, says Eilo, ‘and of how this influenced the bears’ behaviour.’ Mirroring each other, with back legs pressed together (cub on the right), they tasted the stained snow in synchrony. Such broad paws make fine swimming paddles and help the bears to tread on thin ice, and their impressive non‑retractable claws –more than 5 centimetres long –act like icepicks for a better grip. Mindful of the species’ shrinking habitat –climate change is reducing the Arctic sea ice on which the bears depend –Eilo framed her shot tightly, choosing black and white to ‘reflect the pollution as a shadow cast on the pristine environment’.