An elusive snow leopard is the winning subject of the latest Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s People’s Choice Award.
It’s not easy to capture a ‘ghost of the mountain’ as they’re known in the Indian Himalayas.
German photographer Sascha Fonseca embarked on a three-year bait-free camera trap project in order to pose the big cat so perfectly against the pink and purple sunset.
Saying how proud he was to clinch the people’s vote in the UK’s Natural History Museum-run awards, Sascha paid tribute to his artform. “Photography can connect people to wildlife and encourage them to appreciate the beauty of the unseen natural world.
“I believe that a greater understanding of wildlife leads to deeper caring which hopefully results in active support and greater public interest for conservation.”
Snow leopards are incredibly challenging to photograph in the wild due to their camouflage and stealth, as well as scarce numbers, in remote and rugged habitats.
This one was photographed against the Ladakh mountains in northern India.
With an estimate of only 6,500 adults living in the wild, the big cats face the threats of poaching, habitat loss and human-animal conflict.
Who were the runners up of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s People’s Choice Award?
A record 60,466 nature photography fans voted to put Sascha’s snow leopard picture in first place.
But a few other favourites emerged among the 25 images shortlisted by the Natural History Museum from almost 39,000 entries last year.
A polar bear among the flowers
A polar bear playing in a mass of fuchsia-coloured fireweed in Canada was one of four highly commended photos.
Photographer Martin Gregus had been watching the cub on the coast of Hudson Bay as it periodically poked its head above the flowers to see where its mother had got to.
Wanting to capture the world from the cub’s angle, Martin placed his camera - in an underwater housing, for protection against investigating bears - at ground level. He waited patiently a safe distance away with a remote trigger.
Not being able to see exactly what was happening, Martin had to judge just the right moment when the bear would pop up in the camera frame.
A leopard and an ill-fated baby monkey
In heart-stopping detail, this astonishing photo captures nature’s ‘red in tooth and claw’ side.
This leopardess had killed a monkey in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. The monkey’s baby was still alive and clinging to its mother.
Spanish photographer Altuna watched as the predator walked calmly back to her own baby.
Her cub played with the baby monkey for more than an hour before killing it, almost as if it had been given live prey as a hunting lesson, he said.
A majestic lion in the Masai Mara
It was late afternoon when photographer Marina Cano found Olobor resting.
The battle-scarred lion is one of the famous five-strong coalition of males in the Black Rock pride in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.
All around the lion, the ground was black, having been burnt by local Maasai herdsmen to stimulate a new flush of grass.
Marina, from Spain, wanted to capture his majestic and defiant look against the dark background and lowered her camera out of her vehicle to get an eye-level portrait.
It’s not hard to see why the resulting portrait won people over.
Two affectionate foxes
On a chilly day on the North Shore of Prince Edward Island in Canada, a pair of red foxes greet one another with an intimate nuzzle.
The red fox’s mating season is in the winter, and it is not uncommon to see them together prior to denning.
This special moment is one of Brittany Crossman’s favourite images and, she says, one of the tenderest moments she has witnessed between adult foxes.
How can you see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition?
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.
If you’d like to get a closer look at these remarkable images and others, you can catch the exhibition at the museum in South Kensington, London, until 2 July 2023.
It is sponsored by renewable energy company Ørsted, and tickets cost up to £17 (€19).
The next edition of the competition is currently being judged by an esteemed panel of experts, and the winners will be revealed in October 2023.