The 53rd annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition results have been announced. The grand-title winner of the contest is Brent Stirton (South Africa) for Memorial to a Species, which pictures a black rhino killed by poachers (see below). Daniël Nelson (The Netherlands) is the 2017 Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for The Good Life. Canadian Josiah Launstein (Pincher Creek, Alberta) was recognized in the 11- to 14-year-old category for his image The Hairy Raincoat. In 2015, Launstein made his WPY debut as a finalist for two images submitted in the 10-years-and-under category.
The Hairy Raincoat
Finalist, 11–14 Years Old
“It rains a lot in Thailand in the summer,” says Josiah. But that didn’t stop him exploring and discovering large monkey moth caterpillars crawling down the trees by his mote –probably on their way to hibernate in the ground–with raindrops hanging jewel-like on their long defensive and rain proofing hairs. Josiah and his father were in the mountains in northern Thailand, where Nikon was making a short film about the 11-year-old’s passion for wildlife photography (he has been shooting since he was seven). He hadn’t brought a macro lens with him, and so to focus, he got as close to the caterpillar as his 200–500mm lens allowed him and crouched down to silhouette it against the bright, overcast sky. “I wanted the picture to be all about the raindrops in its hair.” Back home in Canada, he cropped in close, to emphasize the effect. “I love how the water drops and hair clusters make it look like water is squirting out of it like little fountains… It’s really easy as a wildlife photographer to get focused on the big animals and forget how cool nature is all around us. This is one of my favourite pictures from the whole trip.” Nikon D7100 + AF-S 200–500mm f5.6 lens at 500mm; 1/200 sec at f7.1 (+0.3 e/v); ISO 640; monopod.
Memorial to a Species
Brent Stirton, South Africa
Grand title winner 2017
(Also winner of The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Story category)
The killers were probably from a local community but working to order. Entering the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve at night, they shot the black rhino bull using a silencer. Working fast, they hacked off the two horns and escaped before being discovered by the reserve’s patrol. The horns would have been sold to a middleman and smuggled out of South Africa, probably via Mozambique, to China or Vietnam. For the reserve, it was grim news, not least because this is where conservationists bred back from near extinction the subspecies that is now the pre-eminent target for poachers, the southern white rhino. For the photographer, the crime scene was one of more than 30 he visited in the course of covering this tragic story.
The Good Life
Daniël Nelson, The Netherlands
Grand title winner 2017, Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year
(Also winner of the 15-17 years old category)
Daniël met Caco in the forest of Odzala National Park in the Republic of Congo. A three‑hour trek through dense vegetation with skilled trackers led him to where the 16‑strong Neptuno family was feeding and to a close encounter with one of the few habituated groups of western lowland gorillas. In the wet season they favour the plentiful supply of sweet fruit, and here Caco is feasting on a fleshy African breadfruit. Caco is about nine years old and preparing to leave his family. He is putting on muscle, becoming a little too bold and is often found at the fringe of the group. He will soon become a solitary silverback, perhaps teaming up with other males to explore and, with luck, starting his own family in eight to ten years’ time. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, threatened by illegal hunting for bushmeat (facilitated by logging and mining roads), disease (notably the Ebola virus), habitat loss (to mines and oil‑palm plantations) and the impact of climate change. In his compelling portrait of Caco – relaxed in his surroundings – Daniël captured the inextricable similarity between these wild apes and humans and the importance of the forest on which they depend.
Organized and produced by the Natural History Museum in London, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition presents the 100 winning images of the annual competition. The exhibition is scheduled to be on view at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria from December 8 through April 2, and at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto from December 16 through March 18. Please check their websites for more information on the exhibitions and related special programming. An online gallery of the winning images is here.