This wonderful photograph the best in 49,000 entrants

Wildlife

The Natural History Museum’s annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize has been awarded to Sergey Gorshkov.

The winning picture, entitled ‘The Embrace’, captures the intimate moment an endangered Siberian tiger (also known as the Amur tiger) hugs an ancient Manchurian fir tree to mark it with her scent. It took Gorshkov over 11 months to capture the image using motion sensor cameras.

“It’s a scene like no other, a unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest,” said Roz Kidman Cox, Chair of the judging panel, in a media release by the Natural History Museum, which is in London, UK.

“Shafts of low winter sun highlight the ancient fir tree and the coat of the huge tigress as she grips the trunk in obvious ecstasy and inhales the scent of tiger on resin, leaving her own mark as her message.

“It’s also a story told in glorious colour and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, a symbol of the Russian wilderness.”

The Siberian tiger

The Siberian tiger is a subspecies of the big cat that can be found in the Russian Far East, northeastern China and potentially into North Korea.

Once forming a distribution right across northern Eurasia down into Turkey and along the Caspian Sea, the Siberian tiger is now limited to the far eastern edge of their historic range.

The largest subspecies of tiger, these big cats were hunted for their fur and bones until as few as 20-30 individuals remained in the wild. Thanks to a concerted conservation effort, this number has steadily increased to potentially as many as 550.

One of their strongholds is Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park, established to protect another endangered big cat, the Amur leopard. It is in this protected reserve that Gorshkov managed to photograph this beautiful tiger deep within the ancient fir forests in which they live.

“Hunted to the verge of extinction in the past century, the Amur tiger population is still threatened by poaching and logging today,” said Dr Tim Littlewood, the Natural History Museum’s Executive Director of Science and jury member.

“The remarkable sight of the tigress immersed in her natural environment offers us hope, as recent reports suggest numbers are growing from dedicated conservation efforts.

“Through the unique emotive power of photography, we are reminded of the beauty of the natural world and our shared responsibility to protect it.”

The prize for Young Photographer of the Year was awarded to Liina Heikkinen for her photograph of a young red fox (Vulpes vulpes) fiercely defending the remains of a barnacle goose from its five rival siblings in the wild of Finland.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The top prize for Young Photographer of the Year was awarded to Liina Heikkinen for her photograph of a young red fox fiercely defending the remains of a barnacle goose from its five rival siblings in the wild of Finland. Photo: Liina Heikkinen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Heikkinen explores the natural history of her home nation along with her family of wildlife photographers.

“A sense of furtive drama and frantic urgency enlivens this image, drawing us into the frame,” said Shekar Dattatri, a wildlife filmmaker and jury member.

“The sharp focus on the fox’s face leads us straight to where the action is. A great natural history moment captured perfectly.”

Winners of other categories included Paul Hilton’s picture of a young pig-tailed macaque, which scooped the Wildlife Photojournalist Story Award, and Frank Deschandol’s remarkable photo of two wasps, which topped the Behaviour: Invertebrate category.

Winners were selected from a shortlist of 100 images and will be exhibited at the Natural History Museum in London before embarking on a UK and international tour.

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