The first released images from the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have captured some of the most captivating wildlife moments.
From a raccoon poking her head out of a 1970s Ford Pinto on a deserted farm in Canada, to a baby hippo tragically being carried to its death, the images do not shy away from the harsh realities animals face in the wild.
Faced with more than 48,000 entries from approximately 100 countries, judges only recently came up with the first batch of ‘Highly Commended’ photos across a wide range of categories.
One photo from the Behaviour: Mammals category showed a lone male cheetah set upon by a pack of African wild dogs. Photographer Peter Haygarth had been following the dogs via a vehicle in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, when they came across the big cat.
Although the dogs were wary at first, they grew more confident when the rest of their pack arrived and they began to encircle the cat, who eventually managed to flee after a few minutes.
Another entry, also from the Behaviour: Mammals category, captured the moment a Gentoo penguin – the fastest underwater swimmer of all penguins – ran for its life as a leopard seal burst out of the water.
Photographer Eduardo Del Álamo was expecting the confrontation, having spotted the leopard seal swimming off the Antarctic Peninsula coast near to where the penguin rested on a fragment of broken ice.
Just moments later, the seal leapt out of the water before the penguin fled, making it into the water. The seal pursued its prey for more than 15 minutes before finally catching and eating it.
Perhaps the most distressing image was the one taken by Adrian Hirschi, which showed a newborn hippo in the jaws of death. As per The Guardian, the baby hippo was keeping close to its mother in the shallows of Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, when a large bull (a male hippo) made a beeline for them.
The bull chased the mother before taking the calf in his mouth while its distraught mother looked on. Although infanticide among hippos is rare, it sometimes results from the stress caused through overcrowding.
Another, more lighthearted image showed a raccoon poking her head out of a car in Saskatchewan, Canada, as her five kits play in the back seat. Photographer Jason Bantle had been waiting for this chance every summer for several years.
With the only access to the car through the small hole in the cracked windscreen, and the hole too narrow for predators such as coyotes to fit through, the abandoned vehicle was an ideal place for the mother raccoon to raise her family.
Other pictures showed a Weddell seal closing its eyes and falling into a deep sleep in South Georgia, a curious grey whale approaching a pair of hands reaching down from a tourist boat, and a sea turtle lying dead next to a washed-up beach chair with a noose around its neck.
You can see them below:
In a statement provided to IFLScience, the Natural History Museum said:
The Natural History Museum’s acclaimed Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and exhibition ignites curiosity about the natural world by showcasing Earth’s extraordinary diversity and highlighting the fragility of wildlife on our planet.
Using the unique emotive power of photography, the competition inspires people to think differently about their relationship with nature and become advocates for the planet.
Winners of the competition will be announced on October 15. The exhibition runs from October 18, 2019 to May 31, 2020 at the Natural History Museum, London.
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