The best wildlife photography of 2017

A dead black rhinoceros with its horn removed.
‘Memorial to a species’
Credit: Brent Stirton / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A haunting image of a recently slain black rhino, a snap of marching spider crabs and a view of a bird stoking its incubatory oven have won at the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.

Winners were selected in each of the 16 categories by a panel of industry-recognised professionals who chose on the basis of originality, artistry and technical complexity.

South African photographer Brent Stirton took out one of two overall prizes with his haunting image of a recently slain, critically endangered, black rhino, titled ‘Memorial to a species’. The rhino had been killed for its precious horn, hacked off by poachers who had snuck into the protected Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve at night.

A chimp with a breadfruit.
‘The good life’
Credit: Daniël Nelson / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The second major award, for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, went to Daniël Nelson of the Netherlands for his charismatic portrait of a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla named Caco.

Caco was captured lounging amongst the forest trees, dining on the flesh of an African breadfruit, displaying the complex similarities that wild apes have with humans.

Below are some of the other finalists and winners.

Close-up of the eye of a humpback whale.
‘The look of a whale’
Credit: Wade Hughes / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Taken off the coast of Tonga, this image captures a female humpback whale that had recently given birth to a calf. The whales deliver their young in the tropical waters before making a 5,000-kilometre trek to the krill-rich feeding grounds of Antarctica. “With a close-up portrait, I wanted to capture something of the intensity of her look and her intelligence,” says Hughes.

An australian brush turkey.
‘The incubator bird’
Credit: Gerry Pearce / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Taken near Sydney, the image shows an Australian brush turkey, one of a handful of birds that use an ‘oven’ to incubate their eggs instead of their own bodies. Only the males oversee incubation, hoping that a female will take a liking to his mound, laying a clutch of eggs in it. The photo shows the male in the process of adding more material to raise the oven’s temperature.

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‘Crab surprise’
Credit: Justin Gilligan / Wildlife

Australian photographer Justin Gilligan was trying to capture an artificial reef experiment off the coast of Tasmania when a sizable army of spider crabs appeared, attracting a predatory Maori octopus. The Maori, the largest species in Australian waters, was behaving “like an excited child in a candy store” as it chose its victims, says Gilligan. The image highlights how little is known about Australia’s temperate reefs. Groupings like the one shown were previously unknown in this area.

The mýrdalsjökull ice cap in iceland.
‘Fire ice’
Credit: Chris Bray / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Leaning out of a helicopter and fighting turbulence, Chris Bray captured this mesmerising image of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in Iceland. Covering almost 600 square kilometres and with a thickness of more than 650 metres, the ice cap conceals the active Katla volcano. Erupting on average every 40-60 years, Katla spews out fine ash that taints the ice, giving it its ‘dirty’ appearance.

A man holds a pangolin.
‘Saved by compassion’
Credit: Adrian Steirn / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In this intimate portrait, a pangolin is held by its minder. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world despite a global ban on their trade. They are sought after for their meat and scales, which some cultures believe have health benefits. This pangolin was recovering and being rehabilitated following its confiscation from poachers.

Run by the Natural History Museum, London, the competition encourages photographers to capture the diversity and beauty of the natural world. This year it attracted nearly 50,00 entries from 92 countries.

An exhibition of 100 images submitted to the competition will be open at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia from 24 May 2018.

The 2018 competition opens for entries on Monday 23 October.

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