14 brutal, beautiful images from this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest

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“Giant Gathering” by the US photographer Tony Wu won in the “Behaviour: Mammals” category.
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Tony Wu/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The winning photo from the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest is dark and bloody: A black rhino lies dead on the ground in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park game reserve, its horn brutally sawed off.

Other winning photos showcase the beauty of nature – sharks circle in a column of water, a bear cub wrestles with its mother, and sperm whales gather to socialize.

The winners of the annual contest, which is produced by the Natural History Museum in London, were announced late Tuesday night. They were chosen from more than 50,000 entries submitted from 92 countries. A selection of preview images from the contest was released in September.

You can see the full gallery of winners and finalists on the museum’s website, but we’ve published a selection of some winners and finalists below.


This red fox took a dive into a snowdrift in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, while trying to capture a vole — unsuccessfully.

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“Stuck In” by Ashleigh Scully, USA. Winner: Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 11-14 Years.
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Ashleigh Scully/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This male orangutan swung down to the ground for a snack in Gunung Palung National Park of Borneo.

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“Alfred in contemplation” by Russell Laman, USA. Finalist: Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 15-17 Years.
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Russell Laman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A nesting leatherback turtle journeys back to the ocean in Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

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“The ancient ritual” by Brian Skerry, USA. Winner: Behavior: Amphibians and Reptiles.
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Brian Skerry/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Lions rarely attack giraffes, but Michael Cohen thinks these two in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, may have noticed that the animal’s misshapen hooves made it difficult to run.

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“Lions’ long shot” by Michael Cohen, USA. Finalist: Behavior: Mammals.
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Michael Cohen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

These brook trout were battling for a position as a female prepared to lay eggs in her nearby nest in Magalloway River, Lincoln County, Maine.

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“Spawn rivals” by David Herasimtschuk, USA. Finalist: Under Water.
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David Herasimtschuk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This Sumatran tiger cub was saved from a snare in a rainforest in Aceh Province on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra by an anti-poaching patrol.

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“Saved but caged” by Steve Winter, USA. Finalist: The Wildlife Photojournalist Award (single image).
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Steve Winter/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Sandbar sharks circle as they come together to feed or spawn in O‘ahu, Hawaii.

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“A whorl of sharks” by Santosh Shanmuga, USA. Finalist: Black and White.
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Santosh Shanmuga/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Shot and de-horned by poachers, this dead black rhino bull lies on the ground in South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve.

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“Memorial to a species” by Brent Stirton, South Africa. Winner: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017.
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Brent Stirton/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In Arizona’s Sonoran Desert National Monument, these saguaro cacti grow for up to 200 years. They spread as far underground as they stand above it in order to absorb rain.

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“Saguaro twist” by Jack Dykinga, USA. Finalist: Plants and Fungi.
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Jack Dykinga/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A group of dozens of sperm whales met off the coast of Sri Lanka to socialize for a few days, rubbing against each other to remove dead skin.

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“Giant gathering” by Tony Wu, USA. Winner: Behavior: Mammals.
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Tony Wu/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Caco, a nine-year-old western lowland gorilla in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo, relaxes while enjoying a breadfruit. Photographer Daniël Nelson was just 16 years old when he took this image, which earned him the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

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“The good life” by Daniël Nelson, Netherlands. Winner: Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017.
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Daniël Nelson/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This whale shark swimming near the Maldives was inhaling a snack as a remora fish aimed to position itself on the shark’s head.

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“Big sucker, little sucker” by Alex Sher, USA. Finalist: Under Water.
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Alex Sher/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This brown bear cub in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park just wanted to play and wrestle with its mother.

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“Bear hug” by Ashleigh Scully, USA. Finalist: Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 11-14 Years.
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Ashleigh Scully/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This tiny seahorse near Sumbawa Island, Indonesia, abandoned the seagrass it was holding when the tide came in bearing plastic and sewage — and grabbed onto this plastic and cotton raft.

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“Sewage surfer” by Justin Hofman, USA. Finalist: The Wildlife Photojournalist Award (single image).
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Justin Hofman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year