46 powerful wildlife images capture beauty, peril and hope

Entries in a new environmental photography competition illustrate the wonder of the natural world, the dangers it faces – and reasons for optimism.

Published 17 May 2021, 16:32 BST
Gorilla by the water

This image of a young male gorilla by the edge of a stream in Bwindi National Park won Kathleen Ricker the grand prize and title of PA2F Environmental Photographer of the Year 2021. Photographer Jean-Michel Krief, member of the jury and co-founder of the Sebitoli Chimpanzee Project in Uganda, said Ricker had “perfectly captured the magic of the moment when the gorilla forgets [Ricker's] presence to concentrate on crossing the river in the heart of the sumptuous Ugandan forest."

Photograph by Kathleen Ricker/PA2F Environmental Photography Award 2021

A captivating image of a young male gorilla tentatively crossing a river has won first prize in a new photographic competition. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Environmental Photography Award 2021 was set up to capture the beauty of wildlife, the harmful impact of human activities on nature, and to demonstrate that harmonious cohabitation is possible.

An international jury judged wildlife photographer Kathleen Ricker’s ‘Gorilla by the Water’ image to be the best of 5,600 entries submitted by more than 1,300 photographers worldwide. Ricker says she fell in love with mountain gorillas on her very first trip to Bwindi National Park, and has since trekked to see them 10 times.

The young black back gorilla pictured about to cross a river is Tabu, which means ‘trouble’ in Swahili. He is the new leader of the Nkuringo family of gorillas in Bwindi National Park rainforest of Uganda, after its dominant silverback, Rafiki, was killed by poachers last year.

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“We spent our one hour watching him show off splashing in the water and swinging from the trees,” recalls Kathleen. “He was so full of energy and life. Mountain gorillas are endangered with just over 1,000 in existence. When I first started trekking with gorillas five years ago, the number of mountain gorillas was around 675. Thanks to the Uganda Wildlife Authority the number has almost doubled.” 

The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which was established to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, organised the photographic competition to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The Foundation was, and its Vice-President and CEO said the theme of its inaugural photographic awards, ‘Humanity & Wildlife: Crossed Destinies, Shared Territories’, was especially relevant in the current context of the health crisis.

It took wildlife photographer Emmanuel Rondeau five months to capture this hopeful image of a stag grazing peacefully on a dedicated wildlife crossing over a busy motorway in the Charente-Maritime region of France. The crossing is used by an incredible number of animals throughout the year, he says, leading to “an image that tells a story about how humans and animals can coexist and evolve around a structure allowing ecological continuity.” The image was awarded first prize in the ‘Reasons for Hope’ category.

Photograph by Emmanuel Rondeau/PA2F Environmental Photography Award 2021

“The accelerated loss of biodiversity is a major issue to which the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation has been particularly committed since its creation fifteen years ago," said Olivier Wenden, CEO of the foundation.

“By launching this first edition of our environmental photography award on the theme ‘Humanity - Wildlife: crossed destinies, shared territories’, we wanted to raise public awareness of the beauty of wildlife but also of the threat that human activities expose it to. Rewarding the remarkable commitment of photographers who devote themselves to this issue seemed all the more important in the current context of a health crisis which urges us to develop more harmonious relationships with nature."

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