Wildlife Winners – People's Favourite Photos

These mesmerising images were the shortlisted contenders for the People's Choice Award at the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Thursday, 15 February

By Jonathan Manning

There are images that judges admire for their composition, lighting and originality. And then there are images that pack such an emotional punch that the public finds them irresistible.

These photographs capture the heart as much as the mind, and were nominated for the People’s Choice Award in the internationally-famous Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The Natural History Museum in London whittled down almost 50,000 submissions from 92 countries to a shortlist of 24 photographs, before inviting the public to vote for their favourite.

The winner was ‘Pikin and Appolinaire’, pictured above, and taken by Jo-Anne McArthur of Canada.

Pikin, a lowland gorilla, was going to be butchered for bushmeat before she was rescued by Ape Action Africa. Jo-Anne took the picture as the ape was being moved from her former enclosure within a safe forest sanctuary in Cameroon to a new and larger one, along with a group of gorilla companions. Pikin was first sedated, but awoke during the transfer to the new enclosure. Luckily, she was not only very drowsy, but she was also in the arms of her caretaker, Appolinaire Ndohoudou, and so she remained calm for the duration of the bumpy drive.

The four other finalists were images with equally eye-catching appeal.

Sloth hanging out
Photographer, Luciano Candisani from Brazil had to climb a cecropia tree, in the protected Atlantic rainforest of southern Bahia, to capture this eye-level shot of this three-toed sloth. Sloths feed on the leaves of these trees, and are often seen high up in the canopy.

Roller rider
A safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, presented Lakshitha Karunarathna from Sri Lanka with a golden opportunity to take this photo of a lilac-breasted roller riding a zebra. Normally the birds prefer to perch high up in the foliage, but this roller spent an hour or more riding around and enjoying the occasional insect meal.

Elegant mother and calf
The annual migration of southern humpback whales from their Antarctic feeding grounds to give birth in the warm sheltered waters off Tonga takes place every year from July to late October. Ray Chin of Taiwan encountered this humpback mother and calf peacefully floating in the plankton-filled water around the island group of Vava‘u, Tonga. After he gently approached them, the giants swam a bit closer to have a closer look at him.


Warm embrace
Debra Garside from Canada waited six days near the den of this polar bear family in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada for the cubs to emerge. When polar bear mothers and cubs leave their dens in the early spring, the cubs stay close to their mothers for warmth and protection. Once the cubs are strong and confident enough, they make the trek to the sea ice with their mother so that she can resume hunting for seals.


These top five People’s Choice Award images are displayed online, alongside the 100-strong winning portfolio chosen by a panel of judges. They are also showcased in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum until 28 May.