You’ll be hard-pressed to find better wildlife photography than the examples adorning the walls of London’s beautiful Natural History Museum (NHM). Its annual competition, which last year attracted 50,000 entries from 92 different countries, showcases the most magnificent aspects of our natural world, as well as what humanity is doing to either live alongside it or destroy it.
The NHM’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPOTY) awards also allow the general public to vote for their favorite images, outside of the panel of judge’s purview. For Year 53, 24 images were placed online, nearly 20,000 clicks were counted, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award has now been announced.
Finally, a democratic choice we can all agree with: a black-and-white shot of a young gorilla being embraced by one of her rescuers, enough to melt even the coldest and hardiest of hearts. The winning shot, by Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, is entitled “Pikin and Appolinaire”, and it can be seen alongside the rest of the WPOTY 2017 exhibition at the NHM until May 28 of this year.
Pikin, the lowland gorilla, had been captured in order to be sold for bushmeat, but Ape Action Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered gorillas and chimpanzees, rescued her. The photograph was taken as Pikin was being moved between two enclosures; although sedated, she awoke briefly and remained calm throughout the journey.
Rather poetically, Appolinaire Ndohoudou – the rescuer pictured – was forced from his home in Chad during a recent civil war. Rebuilding his life in Cameroon, he now helps to conserve the natural world and rear gorillas like Pikin.
“Like our blue whale Hope has become, Jo-Anne’s inspirational image is a symbol of humanity’s power to protect the world's most vulnerable species and shape a more sustainable future for life on our planet,” Director of the Natural History Museum, Sir Michael Dixon, said in a press release.
“Photographs like Jo-Anne's are a reminder that we can make a difference, and we all have a part to play in addressing our impact on the natural world.”
Multi-award-winning photographer Jo-Anne, whose work spans two decades and 50 countries, explained that she “regularly documents the cruelties animals endure at our hands, but sometimes I bear witness to stories of rescue, hope, and redemption.
“Such is the case with the story of Pikin and Appolinaire, a beautiful moment between friends.”
You can check out some of the People’s Choice Award finalists here.