The “ethereal image” of a Siberian tiger female hugging a Manchurian fir tree earned Sergey Gorshkov the Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand prize, the largest wildlife photography contest in the world, organized by the Natural History Museum from London.
It took the Russian photographer more than 11 months to capture the winning photograph, entitled “The Embrace”, using cameras with motion sensors. The “intimate moment” captured by Gorshkov’s lens reveals a female Siberian tiger, or Amur tiger, hugging a Manchurian fir to leave its scent, in the Terra do Leopardo National Park, in the Russian Far East .
“It is an image like no other, a unique glimpse of an intimate moment in the depths of a magical forest“, describes Roz Kidman Cox, president of the jury, in a statement. But also” a story told in glorious colors and textures of the Amur tiger, a symbol of Russian wild territory “, he points out.
In the past, this subspecies of the big cat could be found from northern Eurasia to Turkey, but poaching has reduced it to just over 20 or 30 animals in the wild. Currently, “thanks to a concentrated conservation effort”, the number is expected to be around 550, but the distribution of the Siberian trige is now limited to the Russian Far East, Northeast China and, potentially, North Korea, remaining threatened. “for poaching and logging,” says Tim Littlewood, executive director of the museum’s science department and member of the jury.
“Through the unique emotional power of a photograph we are reminded of the beauty of the natural world and our shared responsibility to protect it.”
The competition attracted more than 49,000 entries from professional and amateur photographers from 86 countries. The winners were announced this Tuesday, in a ceremony broadcast online from the Natural History Museum in London, given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
The image of a fox protecting the captured prey of the five brothers earned the Finnish Liina Heikkinen the prize of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. “A sense of furtive drama and frantic urgency animates this image, drawing us to the stage,” points out Shekar Dattatri, wildlife filmmaker and member of the jury, in a statement. “A great moment of natural history captured perfectly.”
Among the award-winning images, there is also the striking portrait of a proboscis monkey, a crested grebe to feed the young, the dance of two wasps, the portrait of a family of pallas cats, the secret life of ants and the animals of Alberto Fantoni’s meadow. But among the winning photographs there is still a dark side of human-wildlife interaction: the use of animals in circuses, the exploitation of animals in tourist activities and the wildlife markets.
The winners were chosen from a pre-selection of 99 images, revealed at the beginning of September and among which a photograph of the Portuguese José Fragozo, which captured the moment when a hippopotamus emerges from a mud pool to breathe.
The winning images will be displayed at the Natural History Museum in London from 16 October (and until 6 June 2021), before the exhibition becomes itinerant. Registration for next year’s competition already has dates: they start on October 19th and end on December 10th. The next edition will feature new categories to draw attention to the impact of human beings on the planet.
In 2019, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year had already given us unique moments, like the battle of two mice in the London Underground or the winning photo of the competition, the dramatic encounter between a groundhog and a fox.