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10 of the most stunning images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 competition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 awards are nearing, and a record-breaking 50,000+ submissions from photographers from 95 countries are presently being evaluated.

To offer us a preview of what to expect in the 57th iteration of the competition, the Natural History Museum has shared some of the most highly commended images taken from around the world by incredibly brilliant photographers.

Check out this year’s Wildlife Photography competition’s teaser photographs below, and be sure to vote and comment on your favorites.

#1 “The Great Swim” by Buddhilini De Soyza (Sri Lanka/Australia), Recognised In Mammal Behavior

Dilini was worried when the Tano Bora coalition of male cheetahs plunged into the rushing Talek River in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Unseasonable, unrelenting rain (perhaps connected to climate change) has caused the greatest floods local elders had ever seen by January 2020. Cheetahs are strong (though not particularly enthusiastic) swimmers, and with more prey on the other side of the river, they were motivated. Dilini had been following them from the opposite bank for hours while they searched for a crossing spot. Male cheetahs are typically lonely, however they will occasionally stay with their brothers or form groups with unrelated males. The Tano Bora (Maasai meaning “magnificent five”) is an extremely big alliance made up of two pairs of brothers who were later joined by a single male. ‘The lead cheetah waded into the river a couple of times, only to turn back,’ Dilini says. Calmer sections – maybe with a higher chance of crocodiles hiding – were avoided. ‘All of a sudden, the leader jumped in,’ she claims. Then came the third, and then the fourth, and then the five. She saw them being washed away by the torrents with grimaces on their faces. To her surprise and relief, all five of them made it without any trouble. In about 100 meters (330 feet) of water they emerged on the other side of the river and immediately began to hunt.

#2 Fox Storm Highly Commended in Animal Portraits by Jonny Armstrong (USA)

The fox was looking for salmon carcasses in the shallows – sockeye salmon that had perished after spawning. Jonny was resting on his chest at the water’s edge, aiming for a low, wide perspective. The vixen was one of just two red foxes who lived on the tiny island of Karluk Lake on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, and she was unusually brave. Jonny had been following her for several days, watching her scavenge for berries, jump on birds, and nip at the heels of a small brown bear. He was wanting a dramatic portrait, so he took advantage of the window of deepening atmospheric light provided by a storm rolling in. 

#3 Lara Jackson’s (UK) Raw Moment was highly commended in the category of Animal Portraits.

Her muzzle poured bright crimson blood – oxygenated blood, indicating that her wildebeest prey was still alive. Because she was inexperienced, this young lioness did not make a clean kill and began eating the still-fighting animal. She gave Lara an intense stare now, with a paw keeping it down.

#4 In the category of Plants And Fungi, Juergen Freund’s Mushroom Magic was highly commended.

Juergen discovered the ghost fungus on a dead tree in the rainforest near his home in Queensland, Australia on a summer night during a full moon after monsoon rain. He wanted a torch to stay on the path, but he would turn it off every few metres to check the darkness for the ghostly glow. He was rewarded with a cluster of fruiting bodies the size of a hand. This chemical process is known to be used by relatively few species of fungi.

#5 Sergio Marijuán’s (Spain) Lynx On The Threshold, Highly Commended In the category of Urban Wildlife

On a farm in eastern Sierra Morena, Spain, a young Iberian lynx stops in the doorway of the abandoned hayloft where it was brought up. He’ll be leaving his mother’s territory soon.

#6 Gagana Mendis Wickramasinghe’s Lockdown Chicks were Highly Commended in 10 Years And Under.

As their father returns with food, three rose-ringed parakeet chicks poke their heads out of the nest hole. Gagana, 10 years old, was watching from the balcony of his parents’ bedroom in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The hole was at eye level with the balcony, in the backyard, in a dead areca-nut palm that his parents had purposefully kept standing to attract wildlife. Gagana captured this photo when both parents were feeding the growing chicks. Gagana didn’t understand there were up to five chicks until they fledged.

#7 Emelin Dupieux’s (France) Apollo Landing, Highly Commended In 11-14 Years category

As evening approaches, an Apollo butterfly lands on an oxeye daisy. Emelin had always wanted to photograph the Apollo, a giant mountain butterfly with a wingspan of up to 90 millimetres (31/2 inches) that is currently one of Europe’s endangered butterflies, threatened by climate change and harsh weather conditions. Emelin finally acquired his iconic photo after repeated tweaks to settings and focus, with the whites standing out in dramatic contrast and merely daubs of color – with the beautiful combination of yellow hearts of the daisies and the red eyespots of the Apollo.

#8 Commendation for Douglas Gimesy (Australia) for his photojournalism work “A Caring Hand”

An orphaned grey-headed flying-fox pup rests on a “mama roll” after being fed with special formula milk and cradled in Bev, wildlife carer’s   palm. She was three-week-old when spotted on the ground was sent to a shelter in Melbourne, Australia.

#9 It’s up for grabs. Highly Commended in Behavior: Birds category by Jack Zhi (USA).

A juvenile white-tailed kite lunges out to catch a live mouse from its father’s claws in southern California, USA. A tripod and camera had to be abandoned in order for Jack to capture the photo. In the end, it was a perfect match between action and conditions, resulting in a triumphant outcome. It missed but then circled back and grabbed the mouse.

#10 Amphibians And Reptiles: The Gripping End by Wei Fu (Thailand), Highly Commended in behavior 

A red-spotted tokay gecko is tangled in the coils of a golden tree snake in a last desperate effort to defend itself. Tokay geckos are huge – up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) long – aggressive, and have strong jaws. They are named for their tokay sound. Golden tree snakes prefer them as a prey, however.

#11 Beautiful Bloodsucker By Gil Wizen By (Israel/Canada), Highly Commended In Behaviour: Invertebrates

#12 Net Loss By Audun Rikardsen (Norway), Highly Commended In Oceans – The Bigger Picture

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