Marsel van Oosten's breathtaking portrait of two snub-nosed monkeys was the overall winner of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Header image: ‘Night flight’ by Michael Patrick O’Neill, Winner for Underwater category

The Dutch photographer said he was “extremely proud and totally shocked” to have been named the winner of the competition, which is run by the National History Museum in London and is now in its 54th year.

His work seemingly captures the two monkeys in an almost meditative state but they are actually watching a scuffle between two other animals. Van Oosten tailed them for days to capture the striking image.

This year’s competition attracted more than 45,000 entries from 95 different countries.

Marsel Van Oosten

Above: Marcel Van Oosten’s winning photo ‘The Golden Couple’

Roz Kidman Cox, Chair of Judges for the competition, said the judges knew Van Oosten’s work was a winner as they kept going back to it.

“It’s almost like a stage set,” she said. “I think what makes it are the colours and the lighting.

“These monkeys normally feed in the trees, but somehow Marsel’s managed to catch them on the ground, and he’s carefully thrown a very gentle flash on to the scene to illuminate that amazing fur.”

The judges praised the image as a “symbolic reminder of the beauty of nature”.

Marco Colombo

Above: Marco Colombo’s ‘Crossing Paths’

Endangered animals featured in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award

Some of the winning images celebrated animals which are facing degradation of their habitat and looming extinction. Marco Colombo’s ‘Crossing Paths’, which won the Urban Wildlife category, captures a Marsican Brown Bear crossing the road in a dimly-lit stretch of road in Italy’s Apennine Mountains.

The Marsican Brown Bear is critically endangered with only around 50 remaining. They are difficult to spot as they mostly live in isolated areas and only rarely venture into villages in search of food.

The underwater category was taken out by Michael Patrick O’Neill luminous shot of a flying fish in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida (header image above). The fish are only 13 centimetres (5 inches) long and use their fins to glide through the ocean depths in search of the planktonic animals they feed on.

Cristobel Serrano

Above: Cristobel Serrano’s ‘The Ice Pool’

Cristobel Serrano’s ‘The Ice Pool’ took out the creative visions category. Captured using a low-noise drone, it juxtaposes a pristine chunk of ice with a heart-shaped pool adrift in the Antarctica Peninsula and framed by dark, almost foreboding water. Some crabeater seals, undergoing their summer molt, can be seen resting on the ice.

Other snaps highlighted an uglier side of the natural world. Joan de la Malla’s ‘The Sad Clown’ depicts the disturbing practice of macaque street shows, which have been targeted by animal welfare charities for their cruelty.

Blood thirsty

Above: Thomas P. Peschak’s ‘Blood thirsty’

A bloody scene from the Galápagos islands

Thomas P. Peschak claimed the prize in the Behavior—Birds category with ‘Blood thirsty’. His work catches the vampiric sharp-beaked ground finch feasting on the blood of a Nazca Boobie on the Galápagos islands. The boobies are often reluctant to retreat from a finch attack as they are incubating eggs and chicks. The blood loss is not fatal.

16-year-old South African Skye Meaker won Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 for his photograph of a leopard in dreamy repose. The photo was taken on a family trip to Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve.

Skye Meaker

Above: Skye Meaker’s ‘Lounging Leopard’

Meaker said that he had been interested in nature photography since he was gifted a pocket camera at age seven.

The top 100 entries will now be part of an exhibition which opens at the Natural History Museum in London on 19 October before touring international museums.

Entries for next year’s competition open on 22 October.