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Wildlife photographer’s ‘Creation’ wins

South African photographer Brent Stirton captures Itsazo Velez, the director at the Lwiro Chimpanzee rescue and sanctuary centre, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, introducing two new rescued baby chimps into the juvenile enclosure at the centre. These chimps are lucky. Less than one in 10 are rescued after having seen the adults in their group killed for meat.

South African photographer Brent Stirton captures Itsazo Velez, the director at the Lwiro Chimpanzee rescue and sanctuary centre, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, introducing two new rescued baby chimps into the juvenile enclosure at the centre. These chimps are lucky. Less than one in 10 are rescued after having seen the adults in their group killed for meat.

Published Oct 14, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta has been announced as this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his enigmatic image, Creation, which captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

Selected from more than 50 000 entries from 95 countries, the winners of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were announced at an online awards ceremony on Tuesday.

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Every year, for five years, Ballesta and his team returned to the photographed lagoon, diving day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July. After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, hunting the groupers in packs. Overfishing threatens this vulnerable species, but here the fish are protected within a special biosphere reserve.

Chairperson of the judging panel, writer and editor, Rosamund Kidman Cox, OBE, said: “The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic and intriguing, and has an otherworldly beauty. It also captures a magical moment – a truly explosive creation of life – leaving the tail-end of the exodus of eggs hanging for a moment like a symbolic question mark.”

Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said this year’s Grand Title winner reveals a hidden underwater world, a fleeting moment of fascinating animal behaviour that very few have witnessed.

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“In what could be a pivotal year for the planet, with vital discussions taking place at COP15 and COP26, Laurent Ballesta’s Creation is a compelling reminder of what we stand to lose if we don't address humanity’s impact on our planet.”

Ten-year old Vidyun R Hebbar was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his colourful image, Dome home, of a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by.

Vidyun first featured in the competition when he was just 8 years old and loves to photograph the often-overlooked creatures that live in the streets and parks near his home in the city of Bengaluru, India.

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“It’s such an imaginative way of photographing a spider. The picture is perfectly framed, the focus is spot on. You can see the spider’s fangs and the crazy weave of the trap, the threads like some delicate nerve network linked to the spider’s feet. But the really clever bit is the addition of a creative backdrop –the bright colours of a motorised rickshaw,” said Cox.

Dr Natalie Cooper, a researcher with the Natural History Museum and jury member, added that the jury loved this photo from the beginning of the judging process.

“It is a great reminder to look more closely at the small animals we live with every day, and to take your camera with you everywhere. You never know where that award winning image is going to come from.”

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In an intensive process, each entry was judged anonymously by a panel of experts for its originality, narrative, technical excellence and ethical practice. Displayed alongside insights from Natural History Museum scientists and experts, the 100 images will be showcased in spectacular lightbox displays at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, opening tomorrow, before touring across the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the US and more.

The 58th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will open for entries from photographers of all ages, nationalities, and levels on Monday.

Cape Times

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