A heartwarming image of a gorilla in the arms of her rescuer won this year’s award, after 20,000 nature fans voted on a shortlist of 24 images.
The picture will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum until 28 May.
People’s choice winner: Pikin and Appolinaire
Pikin a lowland gorilla, had been captured and was going to be sold for bushmeat but was rescued by Ape Action Africa. Jo-Anne took this photograph as the gorilla was being moved from her former enclosure within a safe forest sanctuary in Cameroon to a new and larger one, along with another group of gorillas. She was first sedated, but during the transfer to the new enclosure awoke. 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
Photograph: Jo-Anne McArthur/Natural History Museum
Finalist: Warm embrace
When polar bear mothers and cubs emerge from their dens in spring, the cubs stay close to their mothers for warmth and protection. Once the cubs are strong and confident, they make the trek to the sea ice with their mother so that she can resume hunting for seals. Debra waited six days near the den of this family, in Wapusk national park, Canada, before they finally emerged. In the most challenging conditions she has ever faced, temperatures ranged from -35C to -55C with high winds, making it almost impossible to avoid frostbite and keep her camera gear functioning
Photograph: Debra Garside/Natural History Museum
Finalist: Roller rider
Lakshitha was on safari in Maasai Mara national reserve, Kenya, when he spotted an unusual sight – a lilac-breasted roller riding a zebra. Normally they prefer to perch high up in the foliage, but this roller spent an hour or more riding around and enjoying the occasional insect meal. Lakshitha waited for the surrounding zebras to form the perfect background before taking this tight crop.
Photograph: Lakshitha Karunarathna/Natural History Museum
Finalist: Sloth hanging out
Luciano had to climb the cecropia tree, in the protected Atlantic rainforest of southern Bahia, Brazil, to take an eye-level shot of this three-toed sloth. Sloths like to feed on the leaves of these trees, and so they are often seen high up in the canopy.
Photograph: Luciano Candisani,/Natural History Museum
Finalist: Elegant mother and calf
Every year from July to late October southern humpback whales migrate north from their Antarctic feeding grounds to give birth in the warm sheltered waters off Tonga. Ray encountered this humpback mother and calf peacefully floating in the plankton-filled water around the island group of Vava‘u. After Ray gently approached them, the giants swam a bit closer to have a look at him. While they made this elegant turn, Ray took the shot. He later converted the image into black and white which he felt represented the simplicity of the scene
Photograph: Ray Chin/Natural History Museum