News Animals Vote for Your Favorite Wildlife Photo Do you prefer dancing pheasants or nuzzling lions? By Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo DiLonardo LinkedIn Twitter Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo has worked in print, online, and broadcast journalism for 25 years and covers nature, health, science, and animals. Learn about our editorial process Published December 1, 2021 10:13AM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Marco Gaiotti / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive It's hard to choose. There's the red squirrel that appears to be leaping with glee and monkeys sweetly cuddling a baby. There's the herd of elephants protecting a (relatively) tiny calf and a black bear cub and a bald eagle sharing a tree. These are some of the finalists for the People's Choice Award from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. They were chosen from more than 50,000 images from 95 countries. The shortlist includes "Breath of an Arctic fox” above, by Marco Gaiotti of Italy. The organizers of the competition describe the image: Marco was watching this little Arctic fox as it incessantly called another nearby. Gradually he noticed the fox’s wet breath was quickly freezing in the air after each call. It was late winter in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, and the cold arctic air was -35 degrees C (-31 degrees F). Photographing arctic foxes is often frustrating, as they are normally running around fast in search of food, but this one was very relaxed and let Marco get close enough to focus on it, with the light glowing perfectly in the background. Voting starts now for the People's Choice competition and the winner will be announced in February. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. ‘The People’s Choice Award offers striking observations of nature and our relationship with it, sparking our curiosity and strengthening our connection with the natural world," says Natalie Cooper, researcher at the Natural History Museum and member of the judging panel. "It’s an incredible challenge to pick just one of these images, so we’re looking forward to discovering which wild moment emerges as the public’s favourite." Here's a look at some of the finalists and what the contest organizers had to say about each image. You can see all the 25 shortlisted finalists and vote for your favorite for the People Choice Award. "Dancing in the snow" Qiang Guo / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Qiang Guo, China In the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province, China, Qiang watched as two male golden pheasants continuously swapped places on this trunk—their movements akin to a silent dance in the snow. The birds are native to China, where they inhabit dense forests in mountainous regions. Although brightly coloured, they are shy and difficult to spot, spending most of their time foraging for food on the dark forest floor, only flying to evade predators or to roost in very high trees during the night. “Lynx cub licking” Antonio Liebanna Navarro / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Antonio Liebanna Navarro, Spain Iberian lynx are one of the world’s most endangered cats due to habitat loss, decreasing food sources, car hits, and illegal hunting. But thanks to conservation efforts the species is recovering and can be found in small areas of Portugal and Spain. Antonio captured this image while leading a conservation project based around photography in Penalajo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain. He knew a family of lynx used this waterhole to drink, so he rigged up a hide close by. Focusing on this cub, he was lucky enough to capture the moment it lifted its head from the water, licked its lips and gazed straight into the camera. “Shelter from the rain” Ashleigh McCord / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Ashleigh McCord, U.S. During a visit to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Ashleigh captured this tender moment between a pair of male lions. At first, she had been taking pictures of only one of the lions, and the rain was just a light sprinkle, although the second had briefly approached and greeted his companion before choosing to walk away. But as the rain turned into a heavy downpour, the second male returned and sat, positioning his body as if to shelter the other. Shortly after they rubbed faces and continued to sit nuzzling for some time. Ashleigh stayed watching them until the rain was falling so hard that they were barely visible. “The eagle and the bear” Jeroen Hoekendijk / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Jeroen Hoekendijk, The Netherlands Black bear cubs will often climb trees, where they wait safely for their mother to return with food. Here, in the depths of the temperate rainforest of Anan in Alaska, this little cub decided to take an afternoon nap on a moss-covered branch under the watchful eye of a juvenile bald eagle. The eagle had been sitting in this pine tree for hours and Jeroen found the situation extraordinary. He quickly set out to capture the scene from eye-level and, with some difficulty and a lot of luck, was able to position himself a bit higher on the hill and take this image as the bear slept on, unaware. “The jump” Karl Samitsch / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Karl Samitsch, Austria Karl was in the Cairngorms, Scotland, with a friend who took him to a forest where red squirrels were used to being fed. They placed hazelnuts on opposite branches of two trees and Karl then positioned his camera on a tripod between the branches facing the direction a squirrel might jump. Setting his camera to automatic focus, he waited in camouflage gear behind a tree, holding a remote control. After less than an hour, two squirrels appeared. As they leapt between the branches, he used the high-speed burst mode on his camera, and of the 150 frames, four were sharp, and this one perfectly captured the moment. “Monkey cuddle” Zhang Qiang / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Zhang Qiang, China Zhang was visiting China’s Qinling Mountains to observe the behaviour of the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey. The mountains' temperate forests are the endangered monkeys’ only habitat, which in itself is under threat from forest disturbance. Zhang loves to watch the dynamics of the family group—how close and friendly they are to each other. And when it is time to rest, the females and young huddle together for warmth and protection. This image perfectly captures that moment of intimacy. The young monkey’s unmistakable blue face nestled in between two females, their striking golden-orange fur dappled in light. “All together” Ly Dang / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Ly Dang, USA The Clark’s grebes on Ly’s local lake in San Diego, California, hadn’t nested for a few years, and he wasn’t sure if the unusually hot and dry weather they’d been experiencing was to blame. Then in 2017 California had twice its normal annual rainfall. With the lakes full, the grebes started to build nests and lay eggs again. They build floating nests at the edge of shallow water among the reeds or rushes. The chicks hitch a cosy ride on a parent’s back soon after hatching. This picture was taken a few days after a storm which sadly washed away almost all of the grebes nests. Ly had been out on a boat for hours, scanning the surface, looking for grebes and, just as the light was fading, he spotted them, the survivors. “Hope in a burned plantation” Jo-Anne McArthur / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Jo-Anne McArthur, Canada Jo-Anne flew to Australia in early 2020 to document the stories of animals affected by the devastating bushfires that were sweeping through the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Working exhaustively alongside Animals Australia (an animal protection organisation) she was given access to burn sites, rescues and veterinary missions. This eastern grey kangaroo and her joey pictured near Mallacoota, Victoria, were among the lucky ones. The kangaroo barely took her eyes off Jo-Anne as she walked calmly to the spot where she could get a great photo. She had just enough time to crouch down and press the shutter release before the kangaroo hopped away into the burned eucalyptus plantation. “Stay close” Maxime Aliaga / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Maxime Aliaga, France Taking care of a young orangutan requires a lot of energy. Maxime spent more than one hour observing this mother in the Pinus Jantho Nature Reserve of Sumatra, Indonesia, trying to keep her excitable baby with her in the nest. Since 2011 the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program has released more than 120 confiscated apes into the reserve. Their goal is to establish new wild populations as a safety net against decline. This mother, Marconi, was once held captive as an illegal pet, but was nursed back to health and released in 2011. In 2017 she was spotted with a wild born baby, Masen, a symbol of hope for the future population. “The ice bear cometh…” Andy Skillen / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Andy Skillen, U.K. It is a two-hour helicopter ride from the nearest town to this spot on the Fishing Branch River in Yukon, Canada—a location where the river never freezes however cold it gets. The salmon run occurs in the late autumn here and for the grizzly bears of the area this open water offers a final chance to feast before hibernating. It was averaging around -30 degrees C (-22 degrees F) and Andy had been waiting and hoping that one particular female bear would use this log to cross the stream. Eventually she did just that and he got the picture he’d envisioned—her fur, wet from fishing, had frozen into icicles and ‘you could hear them tinkle as she walked past.’ “Bonds of love” Peter Delaney / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Peter Delaney, Ireland / South Africa Peter looked on as a herd of elephants closed ranks, pushing their young into the middle of the group for protection. A bull elephant had been trying to separate a newborn calf from its mother. Peter was photographing the herd in Addo Elephant Reserve, South Africa, when the newborn let out a shriek. The herd reacted instantly—blowing loud calls, flapping ears and then surrounding the young and reaching out their trunks for reassurance. Elephants create bonds that last a lifetime, and they can show emotions from love to anger. Peter feels ‘There is something magical and beautiful when you observe elephants—it touches your soul and pulls at your heartstrings.’ “Jaguar of ashes” Ernane Junior / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Ernane Junior, Brazil The year 2020 saw fires in Brazil's Pantanal wetlands more than double compared to the year before—‘a year never to be forgotten’ says Ernane. More than 26% of the total area was affected, and the situation in Encontros das Águas State Park was even worse, with roughly 80% burnt. The park is known for its large jaguar population and Ernane was there documenting the fires when this jaguar and his brother crossed the Rio Três Irmãos (Three Brothers River) nearby. After reaching the opposite bank, the jaguar rolled in the ash left behind by the desolation of days before, leaving only his face uncovered, his now black body mirroring his charred surroundings. “Life in black and white” Lucas Bustamante / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Lucas Bustamante, Ecuador Dozens of plains zebra had showed up to drink at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia—a popular location for the animals of the area to quench their thirst caused by the searing heat of the sun. Packed closely together and moving as one, the zebra lowered their heads to get water and, almost immediately, robotically lifted them again to scan for danger. This went on for five minutes and their stripes reminded Lucas of a living barcode. Focusing hard, his aim was to capture only one with its head up and, just before the herd left, he got the image he thinks best showcases these iconic black-and-white striped animals. “The future in her hands” Joan de la Malla / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Joan de la Malla, Spain Due to overexploitation—industrial logging and land clearing for plantation development—the rainforests of Borneo are disappearing fast. Because of this, endemic species like the orangutan are suffering and dying because of habitat loss and are under serious threat. International Animal Rescue conducts the laudable task of rehabilitating orphaned or injured orangutans. They give them the health care they need and prepare them for reintroduction, when possible. Here, in a forest enclosure, a keeper takes care of babies—they are encouraged to mix with others of a similar age, make nests and forage for food. “Barracudas” Yung Sen Wu / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Yung Sen Wu, Taiwan It was the schooling barracudas at Blue Corner, Palau, in the western Pacific, that grabbed Yung’s attention while diving in the turquoise seascape. He had been swimming with them for four days, but their formation constantly changed shape and he could not find the perfect angle. On the fifth day his luck changed when the fish seemed to accept him into the group. Surrounded by the barracudas, he started to imagine how one fish sees another while swimming, and this was the picture he wanted. The fish were fast, and he had to swim hard to keep his place in the school. At the end of an exhausting 50 minutes, he got his perfect 'fish eye' view.