First images in Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition revealed

First images in Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition revealed

A scar-faced fox, a hitchhiking macaque and two storks hunting by a controlled fire are among the first images released in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, the competition showcases some lesser-known behaviours and habitats while exposing human impact on an increasingly fragile natural world.

More than a dozen images which received highly commended awards in their categories have been released ahead of the winners’ awards ceremony on October 10, announced by wildlife TV presenters and conservationists Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin.

Snow leopard hunting Pallas's cat
A rare snow leopard hunts a Pallas’s cat in China (Donglin Zhou/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Storks hunting
Two storks approach a controlled burn in Kenya, hunting for prey escaping the flames (Elza Friedlander/ Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

The 59th competition received nearly 50,000 entries from 95 countries, with photographers judged anonymously on their creativity, originality and technical skill.

Caitlin Henderson was able to snap a possum munching on insects in the middle of the night outside her balcony window in Queensland, Australia.

“There were heads here, wings there,” she said after capturing the marsupial dismembering a green cicada.

Possum munching insects
This possum was munching insects outside the window of the photographer’s home in Queensland, Australia (Caitlin Henderson/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Macaque riding deer
Macaques have been known to ride on the backs of deer on the Japanese island of Yakushima (Atsuyuki Ohshima/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

Atsuyuki Ohshima caught the moment a macaque sprang from a tree on to a deer on the Japanese island of Yakushima.

Young male primates have been known to land on female deer and try to mate with them, but in this case the macaque was a young female who appeared to be enjoying the ride.

Among the 15 images is a fox in a Kent rehabilitation centre after being attacked, most likely by dogs, and two white storks hunting alongside a fire in Kenya that had been lit to clear bushland.

A rare snow leopard hunting a Pallas’s cat in China, a mason bee building its home from twigs, the swirling spores of a mushroom in Greece and a tiger cub being evacuated from eastern Ukraine also feature.

Tiger cub evacuation
A tiger cub being re-crated on the Polish border after evacuation from an area of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine (Michal Siarek/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Deer shield mushroom releasing spores
A deer shield mushroom releasing its spores on Mount Olympus, Greece (Agorastos Papatsanis/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

Chairwoman of the judging panel Kathy Moran said: “What most impressed the jury was the range of subjects, from absolute beauty, rarely seen behaviours and species to images that are stark reminders of what we are doing to the natural world.

“We felt a powerful tension between wonder and woe that we believe came together to create a thought-provoking collection of photographs.”

An exhibition will run at the Natural History Museum from October 13 until June 30 next year with a UK and international tour of the photos afterwards.

Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said: “We are facing urgent biodiversity and climate crises and photography is a powerful catalyst for change.

“The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition reveals some of nature’s most wondrous sights whilst offering hope and achievable actions visitors can take to help protect the natural world.”