Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

The top images from the 52nd competition have been revealed, with US photographer Tim Laman scooping the coveted title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Here's his powerful shot of a Bornean orangutan in Indonesia, plus a select ion of the category winners...

Winner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016
Tim Laman, USA

Entwined lives


A young male orangutan makes the 30m (100ft) climb up the thickest root of the strangler fi g that has entwined itself round a tree emerging high above the canopy. The backdrop is the rich rainforest of the Gunung Palung National Park, in West Kalimantan, one of the few protected orangutan strongholds in Indonesian Borneo. The orangutan has returned to feast on the crop of figs. He has a mental map of the likely fruiting trees in his huge range, and he has already feasted here. Tim knew he would return and, more important, that there was no way to reach the top -- no route through the canopy -- other than up the tree. But he had to do three days of climbing up and down himself, by rope, to place in position several GoPro cameras that he could trigger remotely to give him a chance of not only a wideangle view of the forest below but also a view of the orangutan's face from above. This shot was the one he had long visualised, looking down on the orangutan within its forest home.
GoPro HERO4 Black, ISO 231, 1/30sec at f/2.8

Winner, Impressions
Luis Javier Sandoval, Mexico

Star player


As soon as Luis slipped into the water, the curious young California sea lions came over for a better look. He had arrived the night before at the island of Espíritu Santo in the Gulf of California, sleeping aboard his boat so that he would be ready to dive at sunrise. He had in mind a picture that needed warm light, a slow shutter speed and friendly subjects. One of the pups dived down, swimming gracefully with its strong fore-flippers (sea lions are also remarkably agile on land, since they can control each of their hind-flippers independently). It grabbed a starfish from the bottom and started throwing it to Luis. 'I love the way sea lions interact with divers and how smart they are,' says Luis. The youngsters often use games to hone their skills, especially fishing techniques. As the pup was playing very close to the breaking point of the waves, Luis's timing had to be spot-on to frame it in the right place against the movement of the water. Angling his camera up towards the dawn light -- just as the pup offered him the starfish and another youngster slipped by close to the rocks -- he created his artistic impression of the sea lion's playful nature.
Nikon D7000 with Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 lens at 10mm, ISO 100, 1/8sec at f/13, Aquatica housing, two Sea & Sea YS-110 strobes

Winner, The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single image
Paul Hilton, UK/Aust ralia

The pangolin pit


Nothing prepared Paul for what he saw: some 4,000 defrosting pangolins (five tons) from one of the largest seizures of the animals on record. They were destined for China and Vietnam for the exotic-meat trade or for traditional medicine (their scales are thought, wrongly, to treat a variety of ailments). Pangolins have become the world's most trafficked animals, with all eight species targeted. This illegal trade, along with habitat loss and local hunting, means that the four Asian species are now endangered or critically endangered, and Africa's four species are heading that way. These Asian victims, mostly Sunda pangolins, were part of a huge seizure -- a joint operation between Indonesia's police and the World Conservation Society -- found hidden in a shipping container behind a façade of frozen fish, ready for export from the major port of Belawan in Sumatra. Also seized were 96 live pangolins (destined to be force-fed to increase their size), along with 100 kilos (220 pounds) of pangolin scales (formed from keratin, the same substance in fingernails and rhino horn) worth some $1.8 million on the black market, and 24 bear paws. All had come from northern Sumatra. The dead pangolins were driven to a specially dug pit and then incinerated. The live ones were taken north and released in the rainforest. 'Wildlife crime is big business,' says Paul. 'It will stop only when the demand stops.'
Canon EOS 5D MkIII with 16-35mm f/2.8 lens at 21mm, ISO 1600, 1/800sec at f/8, Manfrotto tripod

Winner, Birds
Ganesh H Shankar, India

Eviction attempt


Above These Indian rose-ringed parakeets were not happy. They had returned to their roosting and nesting hole high up in a tree in India's Keoladeo National Park (also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) to find that a Bengal monitor lizard had taken up residence. The birds immediately set about trying to evict the squatter. They bit the monitor lizard's tail, hanging on for a couple of seconds at a time, until it retreated into the hole. They would then harass it when it tried to come out to bask. This went on for two days. But the action only lasted a couple of seconds at a time and was fast-moving. The branch was also high up, and Ganesh had to shoot against the light. Eventually the parakeets gave up and left, presumably to try to find another place to rear their young. These Indian birds are highly adaptable, and escaped captive parakeets have founded populations in many countries. In Europe, where they are known as ring-necked parakeets, they are accused of competing for nest holes with some native species, such as nuthatches, and even bats, but in turn, other birds such as starlings are quite capable of evicting the parakeets from their nest holes.
Nikon D810 with 200mm f/2 lens, ISO 400, 1/500sec at f/5, Gitzo 5540LS tripod, Sachtler 0707 FSB-8 fluid head

Winner, Black and White
Mats Andersson, Sweden

Requiem for an owl


Above Every day in early spring, Mats walked in the forest near his home in Bashult, southern Sweden, enjoying the company of a pair of Eurasian pygmy owls -- until the night he found one of them lying dead on the forest floor. Pygmy owls, with their distinctive rounded heads and lack of ear tufts, are the smallest owls in Europe, barely 19 centimetres (7.5in) long, though with large feet that enable them to carry prey almost as big as themselves. They also hunt in the day. Nesting in tree cavities, especially in conifer woodland, they form pair bonds in autumn that last through to spring and sometimes for more than one breeding season. 'The owl's resting posture reflected my sadness for its lost companion,' recalls Mats. Preferring to work in black & white -- 'it conveys the feeling better' -- he captured the melancholy of the moment, framing the solitary owl within the bare branches, lit by the first light of dawn. Not long after, he found this owl dead, too, and suspects that it and its mate may have been killed by one of the larger owls in the forest, not for food but because, in the breeding season, it didn't tolerate other birds of prey in its territory.
Nikon D4 with 300mm f/2.8 lens and 2x extender, ISO 400, 1/160sec at f/5.6

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