About 57 years ago, what began as a magazine competition has grown into one of the world’s most prestigious photography awards: the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The distinguished awards were established by the BBC Wildlife Magazine (then known as Animals) in 1965.

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A blue classic car with a cage hanging above it from a tree
Karine Aigner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

London’s Natural History Museum, which now runs the competition, unveiled the winners of the 58th edition in October 2022. This year, 38,575 entries were received from 93 countries. Awards were also given in 19 categories with two top winners. The photographs were chosen for their “originality, narrative, technical excellence and ethical practice.” Meanwhile, the primary goal of this competition is to put the spotlight on conservation and raise awareness about the governing wildlife issues.

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Bees in a clump vying to mate
Karine Aigner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Karine Aigner, an American photographer, won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for her stunning image, titled “The Big Buzz.” In fact, Aigner is only the fifth woman to win the competition’s grand prize in its six-decade history. Aigner was able to capture bees competing to mate in stunning detail. A macro lens was also used to capture a close-up shot of a group of cactus bees spinning over the hot sand in South Texas. After a few minutes of tussling, the victorious male took off with the lone female to mate. Cactus bees are noted to be endangered due to habitat loss, pesticides, agricultural practices and climate change.

Incredible view of the inside of a whale's mouth
Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The second highest honor was for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022. Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, 16, of Thailand, bagged this award for his image titled “The Beauty of Baleen.” Baleen is found inside the mouth of toothless whales to filter food from the sea. The extraordinary image depicts the whale’s baleen, gums and skin in contrasting colors and textures. Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox, Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Jury describes the image as “the pin-sharp detail of the tiny anchovies is set against an abstraction of color with the weave of brown baleen hair rimmed by a cascade of water drops.”

A large starfish with sperm around it
Tony Wu, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer Tony Wu won the underwater category award for his photograph of a male Leiaster leachi sea star. The photograph was taken in Kagoshima, Japan’s southernmost prefecture. Wu’s captivating photograph depicts a giant sea star releasing sperm into the water. The sea star also measured between 40 and 45 centimeters in diameter. Additionally, what added to the beauty of this picture was the dark water in the backdrop. It was due to the active volcano in southern Japan. And it erupted not long after he had left the scene.

Polar bears venturing around a house
Dmitry Kokh, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Among the others that stood out was Dmitry Kokh’s photograph of an abandoned house occupied by polar bears on the small, deserted island of Kolyuchin. Furthermore, Daniel Nez captured a drone shot of the contrast between the forest and the algal growth on Lake Amatitlán in Guatemala

Surreal scene of flamingos in water reflecting the sky
Junji Takasago, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Another classic image by Junji Takasago depicts a surreal scene. The crystal clear image showcase a preening group of Chilean flamingos in the Andes, Salar de Uyuni, in southwest Bolivia.

A gorilla's last moment spent with his caretaker
Brent Stirton, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Touching Brent Stirton’s photograph of a mountain gorilla named Ndakasi in his final moments. The image also conveys an emotion, as Ndakasi lay in the arms of her rescuer and caregiver of 13 years, ranger Andre Bauma. 

These images serve as a reminder of the unique, vibrant world of animals that requires immediate protection. Human actions are having a negative impact on wildlife, ranging from declining biodiversity to habitat destruction. With so many breathtaking images of wild moments, the museum will display 100 remarkable photographs to the public until July 2, 2023. The photographs will also be shown in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the National History Museum, London

Images courtesy of the National History Museum