Humans couldn’t exist without other animals. But there’s no doubt that they also make our lives infinitely richer - and add a healthy dose of comedy value.
This year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards finalists elevate the funniest animal images to an artform, distilling dozens of astonishing moments from the animal kingdom.
Timing is everything in both comedy and photography, as the snapshots of a bear-slapping salmon and an oblivious heron make clear.
“With so much going on in the world, we could all use a bumper dose of fun and laughter and this year’s finalists have definitely delivered that!” says Tom Sullam, co-founder of the competition which launched in 2015.
It’s all for a good cause; this year Comedy Wildlife is supporting Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), a UK charity that helps conservation leaders working in their home countries across the Global South.
There are 40 brilliant snaps to choose from - here are just a few of our favourites.
This plucky duckling is somewhere special on the conga line from cute to funny.
They may have only made it across a few terrapin backs before falling off, but their courage at the Juanita wetlands in Washington is now immortalised forever.
It’s not the most flattering of photos, but this snap of a seemingly explosively flatulent zebra is sure to delight young animal lovers.
The “zebra does a great impression of the 80's children's game Buck-a-roo,” comments the photographer Ryan Sims who spotted the “fart-powered” mammal kicking up dust in Amboseli, Kenya.
It’s hard not to smile or feel your hand lifting for a friendly wave back at this cheeky raccoon in Florida.
There’s a funny economy to the Czech photographer’s description, too. “I photographed a raccoon on a Florida beach, where I fed him shrimps. Then he thanked me like that,” says Miroslav Srb.
Salmon don’t have any hands to raise, but it’s not stopped this one giving a spirited slap back to the bear who wanted to make the fish its supper.
This dynamic shot is an absolutely extraordinary insight into the cut and thrust of the animal world in Alaska.
With enviable timing, French photographer Jean-Jacques Alcalay captured the moment a hippo appeared to be angling to swallow a heron whole.
But the bird - blithely perched on another animal’s back - was actually behind the hippo, who was just having a big yawn. Incredible framing.
“These elephant seal weaners were practising their jousting skills for many minutes before they collapsed in exhaustion,” says photographer Andrew Peacock who watched them in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica.
“One looks to be resting far more comfortably than the other!”
This tableau is an obviously funny collision of human and bird worlds, but it's also the scene of a crime. A picnic theft, to be specific.
“When this southern cassowary sat confidently down on a picnic blanket, it scared all of the picnickers away and started eating up the fish and chips that were laid out before it,” explains the photographer Lincoln Macgregor at Etty Bay, Australia.
Dubbed ‘the most dangerous bird in the world,’ cassowaries are the scourge of unsuspecting tourists, roaming the beachfront with their dagger-like claws most afternoons.
What can you do when such a fearsome predator locks eyes? The insincere expression takes the edge off this lion’s pose a bit, and - from a safe distance - it's hard not to smile back.
Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg spent a whole morning observing this lion’s pride at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy in Kenya.
“One of the lionesses made some funny facial expressions after yawning, luckily for me she looked straight into the camera for a moment and I caught this fake smile.”
This big-eyed double act is a hoot.
“One morning, a few days before the two [eastern screech] owlets fledged, one owlet tried to squeeze into the nest hole with Mom, maybe to see the outside world for the first time,” recalls photographer Mark Schocken in Florida.
“It was hilarious and I was glad I was there that morning to photograph it. The moment lasted only a few seconds as Mom didn't seem very happy with the arrangement. Check out the expression on her face.”
When will the winners of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards be announced?
The overall winner of the Comedy Wildlife Photography awards will be chosen by a panel of expert judges, this year including comedian Russell Kane and underwater film and diving aficionado Luke Inman.
TV presenter Kate Humber, actor and comedian Hugh Dennis and young conservationist Bella Lack will also be back casting their votes for the funniest animal pic, with the winner announced on 8 December and treated to a week-long safari in Kenya's Maasai Mara reserve.