The United Kingdom’s Natural History Museum recently announced the winners of the Wildlife Photography Awards 2020. While there are several across categories, Catherine Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge, announced the most prestigious title in the contest—The Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Tracking the Amur tiger
- Photograph: The Embrace by Sergey Gorshkov
- Winner: Wildlife Photographer of the Year category at the British Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photography Awards
Photographer Sergey Gorshkov took over 11 months of shooting pictures in secret in the far eastern forests of Russia to come up with the winning entry, ‘The Embrace’. It is a heart-warming, candid portrait of a Siberian tiger hugging a Machurian fir tree to mark it with his feline scent. The image was chosen from 49,000 entries and captures an intimate moment in an endangered animal’s life.
Sergey scoured the forest for signs of Amur, knowing his chance of photographing one was slim. The chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox, told the museum, “It’s a scene like no other, a unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest. It’s also a story told in glorious colour and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, a symbol of the Russian wilderness.”
The Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger is a subspecies of the big cat and said to be the largest in the world. Eastern Russia’s tigers have been hunted to near-extinction with only a few hundred left and are critically endangered.
To survive the freezing Taiga temperatures, Amurs have a thicker coat than their cousins from the south, especially around their paws and neck where they have a small mane, much like a lion.
Exploring the wild and remote region is an once-in-a-lifetime experience and seeing a Siberian tiger is far from guaranteed. During winter, the tracks left by the magnificent mammals run deep in the snow, allowing us to follow their footsteps and explore the land they call home. Travellers can enjoy hiking and snowshoeing in the region in the heart of Siberia.
Malayan giant squirrels, elephants and the weaver ants in the Gangetic plains
- Photograph: The Last Bite by Ripan Biswas
- Winner: Wildlife Photographer Portfolio Award category at the British Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photography Awards
‘The Last Bite’ is an intimate portrayal of the very act of survival, captured brilliantly by Indian photographer Ripan Biswas and shot in Buxa Tiger Reserve in the Gangetic plains of West Bengal.
A colony of weaver ants went foraging for small insects as food on a dry river bed. The beetle started to pick the ants of the river bed, and in defence, an ant from the colony bit the hind leg. The beetle, in an effort to ward off the prey, sported bright spots on itself, suggesting the presence of poison such as cyanide in its defence arsenal. The beetle was nimble and managed to snap the attacking ant into two while defending itself.
Buxa Tiger Reserve, also known as Buxa National Park, is situated in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Established as the 15th tiger reserve, it is nestled in the Gangetic plains bordering the mighty Himalayas on the north and shares its boundaries with Bhutan and Assam.
Named after the eponymous fort within the sanctuary, this tiger reserve is a favoured destination for tourists in pursuit of the wilderness and Bengal tigers. The northern part of the reserve extends deep into Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and is a crucial corridor used by elephants to migrate from Bhutan to the Dooars, the beautiful foothills of eastern Himalayas.
Apart from the endangered feline species, the Bengal tiger, the park hosts the greatest number of mammals such as Asian elephants, wild dogs and Malayan Giant Squirrels.
Trekking to Mount Etna, the mountain range with spectacularly volcanic eruptions
- Photograph: Etna’s River by Luciano Gaudenzio
- Winner: Earth’s Environments category at the British Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photography Awards
Perched on the Sicilian coast in Italy, Mount Etna or Mongibello (as known in Italian), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most active volcano in Europe. It took Italian photographer Luciano Gaudenzio hours of hiking around the dangerous craters’ north face to capture this beautiful juxtaposition of fiery bright magma pouring over from the side of the mountain and the gaseous mist.
Gaudenzio was on the nearby island of Stromboli to photograph eruptions when he heard the news of the new vent. He took the next ferry, hoping he would arrive in time to see the peak of the latest show. He wanted to photograph the drama of the lava river flowing into the horizon and did so after sunset to capture the dramatic moment.
Impressive in size (more than 3,327 meters high), Mount Etna overlooks the entire region. It has been erupting continuously for the past three decades; the latest eruption occurred in mid-December last year. Magma fissures and lava rivers, even though fairly common, are dangerous for inexperienced mountaineers. Despite the risks involved, the mountain remains a popular tourist attraction with expeditions ranging from a short hike to one inclusive of an elaborate meal.
Exploring the ‘underworld’ of Cambodia
- Photograph: The Golden Moment by Songda Cai
- Winner: Under Water category at the British Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photography Awards
Scientists believe we’ve explored only five per cent of our oceans, which means we know more about outer space than we do about the oceans.
‘The Golden Moment’ was clicked on a night dive by Chinese photographer Songda Cai and exhibits a Diamondback Squid off the coast of Anilao, Philippines. While on the night-time underwater expedition, he must have come across various sea creatures that exist in the tropical oceanic waters. The cephalopod in the picture, the squid, was hovering below the photographer. On discovery, he stopped mid-hunt and gracefully swam away in a moment.
Anilao in the Philippines is a destination for thrill-seekers. The coast is blessed with an abundant natural landscape, inhabited by all kinds of creatures, terrestrial or aquatic, making it a favoured destination to snorkel and scuba dive in, and explore on treks and walks. The impeccable biodiversity houses an array of corals, fish, molluscs, rare octopi and other unexplored aquatic life.
Exploring the Colombian Andes
- Photograph: Out of the Blue by Gabriel Eisenband
- Winner: Plants and Fungi category at the British Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photography Awards
Over the years, Colombia has been written about for its contentious history, gourmet coffee, cuisine, narco-trafficking and even reggaeton music. One of the lesser-known reasons why this country should be on your bucket list is the dramatic topography. And the award-winning picture, ‘Out of the Blue’, is a prime specimen of the country’s diverse flora.
Photographer Gabriel Eisenband aimed to click a picture of one of the tallest peaks in the Colombian Andes range, Ritak’Uwa Blanco. The Senecio plant in the foreground caught his attention. Loosely translated to mean ‘Old Man’, the plant manages to pronounce its bright yellow colour against an entirely blue background of the peaks and the all-year-round snow.
The Andes, the longest mountain range in the world, extends from Chile and Argentina northward to Colombia and Venezuela and is split into three chains at the Colombia-Ecuador border. The highest mountains in Colombia are within about 40kms of the palm-lined beaches of the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. In the late 1980s, approximately 78 percent of the country’s population lived in the Andean highlands.
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