Exactly 100 pieces of stunning wildlife photography are to go on display at the Natural History Museum in London ahead of the announcement of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
The competition, which saw 48,000 entries stripped down to a premier 100, sees photographs of insects, foxes, baboons and turtles compete for the prize.
The chosen few images will feature in the exhibition, which opens on 19 October, before heading on a UK and international tour.
Included in the final list is Klaus Tamm's Sizing Up, featuring two insects preparing for a fight on the veranda of the photographer’s holiday apartment.
"I was so impressed by the harmony that I ended up photographing them for several hours," said Tamm.
Dutch photographer Jasper Doest contributed a photograph of a Japanese Macaque seemingly in a state of serene relaxation.
The award-winning photographer, who has traveled far and wide to photograph arctic foxes, birds, seals and spiders among others, will also feature in the top 100 in the exhibition.
Among the other entries, which have come from 98 countries around the globe, will be Ofer Levy's snap of a bat skipping along water, Fly-By Drinking.
The Australian, primarily a bird photographer, was formerly a biology teacher before deciding to take up his hobby full-time.
"I see my photography as a tool to promote the love for nature and conservation," Levy writes on his website.
It's a statement that applies not just in his work but also to all the entries that serve to remind just how beautiful the natural world can be.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year runs from 19 October 2012-3 March 2013 at the Natural History Museum. Admission is £10 for adults, £5 for concessions and is free for members, patrons and under threes
credit: Charlie Hamilton James While making a film about giant otters in Cocha Salvador, Manu National Park, Peru, Charlie got to know this youngster well. 'He was full of personality,' says Charlie. 'These animals have a lot of attitude.' The portrait of the four-month-old cub was taken lying down in his boat, and the cub was as curious about Charlie as Charlie was about him, craning up its neck while treading water. Giant otters are very social and live in extended family groups, with up to eight or so members, giving safety in numbers where local predators, such as caiman, are concerned. They are officially listed as endangered. In the past the main threat was hunting, but now their habitat is being destroyed and degraded by logging, mining, pollution, overfishing and even dams, and their numbers are rapidly dropping.
credit: Klaus Tamm A scattering of gecko droppings on the sunny veranda of Klaus's holiday apartment near Etang-Sale-lesHauts, on the French island of Réunion, had attracted some unusual-looking insects. They were neriid long-legged flies. Klaus settled down with his camera to watch as they interacted. 'Every so often, a couple of males would take a break from feeding and engage in a kind of combat dance that involved spinning around each other,' he says. 'They would finish by stretching up to their full one and a half centimetres, then pushing with their mouthparts, shoulders and forelegs until one gained height, before flying away or mating with nearby females. I was so impressed by the harmony in the combat dance that I ended up photographing them for several hours.'
credit: Sergey Gorshkov In late May, about a quarter of a million snow geese arrive from North America to nest on Wrangel Island, in northeastern Russia. They form the world's largest breeding colony of snow geese. Sergey spent two months on the remote island photographing the unfolding dramas. Arctic foxes take advantage of the abundance of eggs, caching surplus eggs for leaner times. But a goose (here the gander) is easily a match for a fox, which must rely on speed and guile to steal eggs. 'The battles were fairly equal,' notes Sergey, 'and I only saw a fox succeed in grabbing an egg on a couple of occasions, despite many attempts.' Surprisingly, 'the geese lacked any sense of community spirit', he adds, 'and never reacted when a fox harassed a neighbouring pair nesting close by.'
credit: Ofer Levy The grey-headed flying fox is the largest bat in Australia - and one of the most vulnerable. Once abundant, there are now only around 300,000 left. The main threats include loss of habitat, extremetemperature events and human persecution (roosting in numbers, eating cultivated fruit and an undeserved reputation for bearing disease brings it into conflict with people). The bat is now protected throughout its range, but its future remains uncertain. Ofer spent several days in Parramatta Park in New South Wales photographing the bat's extraordinary drinking behaviour. 'At dusk, it swoops low over the water, skimming the surface with its belly and chest,' he says. 'Then, as it flies off, it licks the drops off its wet fur.' To photograph this in daylight, Ofer had to be in the right position on a very hot day, with the sun and the wind in the right direction, and hope a bat would be thirsty enough to risk drinking. 'This required standing in chest-deep water with the camera and lens on a tripod for three hours a day for about a week in temperatures of more than 40 degrees.'
credit: Jasper Doest In winter, Japanese macaques in the Jigokudani Valley of central Japan congregate in the hot-spring pools, to stay warm and to socialise. The colder it gets in the mountains, the more of them head for the pools, as do humans. Jasper found about 30 macaques enjoying a steamy soak, their heads covered in fresh snow. 'The warm water has a very relaxing effect on the monkeys, and most of them were asleep.' He watched with delight as this youngster became increasingly drowsy and eventually closed its eyes. 'It's such an honour when an animal trusts you enough to fall asleep in front of you,' says Jasper. 'I used a close-up shot to capture the moment of tranquillity and to emphasise the human likeness in both face and pleasure.'
credit: Jordi Chias Pujol Armeñime, a small cove off the south coast of Tenerife, is a hotspot for green sea turtles. They forage there on the plentiful seagrass and are used to divers. Jordi cruised with this one in the shallow, ginclear water over black volcanic sand. 'The dazzling colours, symmetry and textured patterns were mesmerising,' says Jordi, 'and I was able to compose a picture to show just how beautiful this marine treasure is.' Like the other seven species of sea turtles, the green sea turtle is endangered, with populations declining worldwide. The many threats include habitat degradation, building development on their breeding beaches, ingestion of rubbish such as plastics and entanglement in fishing gear.
The Tourist Tiger Trail
credit: Melisa Lee Tiger Temple is the colloquial name for Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Yannasampanno, a Buddhist monastery at Kanchanaburi in Thailand. Its relationship with tigers started in 1999, when the Abbot took in a number of injured and orphaned cubs. The monastery then started to breed its tigers. Now it receives hundreds of paying visitors a day wanting to stroke and be photographed with them. Over the years, there has been both positive press for Tiger Temple, including tourism awards and a film, and negative reports that animals are mistreated behind the scenes. In 2008, a report by Care for the Wild International, based on an undercover investigation, claimed major welfare problems, unlicensed breeding of the tigers and trading with a tiger farm in Laos. And in an open letter to the Thai authorities, the International Tiger Coalition criticised the temple's claim that it is involved in tiger conservation. Melisa's picture shows a male tiger leading tourists back from the tiger-petting arena to the monastery, followed by his two-month-old cubs (an unusual sight, since cubs would normally stay with their mother until at least a year old).
credit: Jami Tarris Two of the young Sulawesi black-crested macaques entered into a boisterous game with an older, stronger male, involving much ear-piercing shrieking and chasing. Though they were in high spirits, Jami had spent weeks with them and could tell that their play was becoming increasingly heated. When the playmates huddled briefly together, she snatched a close-up shot. But as she did, the older male threw her an intense and challenging look. 'I didn't take this lightly,' Jami says, and she quickly withdrew to a safe distance. Moments later, the older macaque turned rough, and the younger ones scattered, screeching. The real drama is that these characterful primates are at high risk of extinction, both from poaching and forest loss on their Indonesian island home.
credit: Claudio Gazzaroli North Sound, off the island of Grand Cayman, is a hotspot for 'friendly' southern stingrays - individuals accustomed to interacting with humans. Fishermen historically discarded their unwanted fish parts once they reached the calm waters of the sandbar at the Sound. The stingrays gathered for an easy meal and learnt to associate the boat-engine noise with food. Today, snorkellers gather in the waist-deep water to meet these charismatic fish. Inspired by David Doubilet's original split-level portrait of a Cayman stingray, Claudio set out to capture an image of the stingrays with a different perspective. 'There were about 75 of them undulating through the shallows,' he says. Balancing the light was a problem 'because of the extremes in contrast between the dramatic evening sky and sandy sea bottom', but keeping people out of the picture proved to be more of a challenge than executing the composition.
credit: Gregoire Bouguereau A single cheetah would never normally dream of taking on prey the size of an adult wildebeest. But there was obviously something wrong with this wildebeest, which was lying on the ground, covered in mud. It kept trying, laboriously, to get to its feet. Each time it did manage to stand, it would collapse again. Its behaviour caught the attention of a female cheetah with two cubs, which Grégoire had been watching for several days in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. 'She had just caught a newborn Thomson's gazelle, but that wasn't enough food for her family. So, after observing the struggling wildebeest for a while, she decided to make the most of the opportunity.' While the female was assessing the situation, Grégoire positioned his camera and set it on remote control so that he, too, could seize the opportunity.