Baby Gorilla Hugging Man Who Saved Her Life Wins Wildlife Photo Of The Year

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Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

The People’s Choice award for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year has been chosen, and the picture will warm your heart.

You don’t need David Attenborough to tell you (though, it’s great when he tells you anything) that humans’ relationship with animals is not great to say the least.

We have presided over a rate of animal extinctions estimated to be up to 10,000 times higher than the natural rate.

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But still, in amongst the terrible state of the natural world emerge moments of beauty and sincerity between species, as this photo – the People’s Choice for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year – perfectly exhibits.

The photo, which shows a young gorilla embraced by her rescuer, was taken by Jo-Anne McArthur during a six-week stay as a volunteer at animal sanctuary Ape Action Africa.

The image shows the gorilla, who is called Pikin, waking up in the arms of her rescuer Appolinaire Ndohoudou, as she is being moved between sanctuaries.

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McArthur told CBS News:

I knew in that moment it was truly unique. I hope when people see the image they understand the context.

They should not be animals we should be cozying up to. Gorilla’s are dangerous animals. This situation is extraordinary.

It is this duality in the photo which makes it so striking, as Pikin would not need to be in that vehicle with these humans had she not been a near-victim of the bushmeat trade.

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McArthur is known for her work taking photos of animal cruelty in zoos, aquariums and farms across the world.

Her words on our treatment of animals are biting:

Animals die because of these selfies we want to take. If it’s a good organisation, you’re not allowed to touch animals. Animals should be as wild as possible.

We often think of animals as parts instead of as a whole. We think of wings, not the chicken, ribs but not the pig.

I just want people to look and not turn away. I want them to think of animals critically.

McArthur told the BBC that she is incredibly thankful that the image has resonated with people, and hopes that the small moment of compassion between the two subjects touches viewers.

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The picture itself was chosen by almost 20,000 nature fans from a shortlist of 24, though there were 50,000 entries to the competition.

Sir Michael Dixon, Director the Natural History Museum who runs the competition, said:

Jo-Anne’s inspirational image is a symbol of humanity’s power to protect the world’s most vulnerable species and shape a more sustainable future for life on our planet.

Photographs like Jo-Anne’s are a reminder that we can make a difference, and we all have a part to play in addressing our impact on the natural world.

The rest of the finalists can be seen here.

The photo will be showcased at the Natural History Museum in London until May 28.