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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017

‘Memorial to a species’ by Brent Stirton, Wildlife Photographer of the Year ‘Memorial to a species’ by Brent Stirton, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Brent Stirton
18 Oct
Prestigious Natural History Museum photography competition recognises Brent Stirton's capturing of a black rhino moments after being shot by poachers in South Africa

Photojournalist Brent Stirton was an hour from the scene when the call came in to say that a black rhino bull had been shot in Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. The horns had been removed, the carcass left to rot. He raced over to arrive before the police, and was able to quickly set up some lighting and captures some photographs - being carefully to contaminate the scene for the imminent forensices team - of the remains of the animal. This year, the judges at the Natural History Museum choose the above photograph by Stirton out of nearly 50,000 entries as the Grand Title Winner for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017.

‘Rhino poaching has arrived at a point where it's a criminal enterprise, it's organised,’ reflects Stirton. ‘It's gone from being something that was about sustainable poaching, subsistence poaching – and the same is true with a lot of wildlife crime – we are seeing those kinds of poachers being pushed out by much more organised groups, because it's too valuable. This is about organised crime now, it's not about sustainable poaching.’

‘We are commodifying our world,’ he continues. ‘Everything will have a value, and who controls and defines that value is essentially defining our world. While the picture that we're talking about is a brutal image of a magnificent animal, it's much more a story about the legal process and the thinking behind commodification as we go forward.’

‘I applaud the Wildlife Photographer of the Year for choosing an image that is controversial. You walk around this exhibition, you will see dedication, you will see perseverance, you will see magnificence. Images that are very worthy winners everywhere. But we are moving into a state of crisis, and this image addresses that. I for one am very glad and very grateful that they would choose to honour an image like that.’

‘The bottom line is that people don't connect the dots, they don't understand that none of these things exist in isolation. If you child is sick in Vietnam, and there's a centuries-old mythology speaking to the value of rhino horn, or any other animal-based medicine, then you're going to do that. But really what's happening is that you're being exploited by people who know better.’

‘Brent’s image highlights the urgent need for humanity to protect our planet and the species we share it with,’ adds Sir Michael Dixon, Natural History Museum Director. ‘The black rhino offers a sombre and challenging counterpart to the story of “Hope” our blue whale. Like the critically endangered black rhinoceros, blue whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction, but humanity acted on a global scale to protect them. This shocking picture of an animal butchered for its horns is a call to action for us all.’

Daniël Nelson took the award for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 with hischarismatic portrait of a young western lowland gorilla from the Republic of Congo,lounging on the forest floor whilst feeding on fleshy African breadfruit.

The good life Daniel Nelson Wildlife Photographer of the Year'The good life' by Daniel Nelson, Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year Grand Title Winner

Contemplation Peter Delaney Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Contemplation' by Peter Delaney, Winner 2017, Animal Portraits

Crab surprise Justin Gilligan Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Crab surprise' by Justin Gilligan, Winner 2017, Behaviour: Invertebrates

Giant gathering Tony Wu Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Giant gathering' by Tony Wu, Winner 2017, Behaviour: Mammals

In the grip of the gulls Ekaterina Bee Wildlife Photographer of the Year'In the grip of the gulls' by Ekaterina Bee, Winner 2017, 10 years and under

Palm oil survivors Aaron Gekoski Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Palm oil survivors' by Aaron Gekoski, Winner 2017, Wildlife Photojournalist: Single image

Polar pas de deux Eilo Elvinger Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Polar pas de deux' by Eilo Elvinger, Winner 2017, Black and white

Stuck in Ashleigh Scully Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Stuck in' by Ashleigh Scully, Winner 2017, 11-14 years old

Tapestry of life Dorin Bofan Wildlife Photographer of the Year'Tapestry of life' by Dorin Bofan, Winner 2017, Plants and fungi

The ancient ritual Brian Skerry Wildlife Photographer of the Year'The ancient ritual' by Brian Skerry, Winner 2017, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles

The ice monster Laurent Ballesta Wildlife Photographer of the Year'The ice monster' by Laurent Ballesta, Winner 2017, Earth’s Environments

The incubator bird Gerry Pearce Wildlife Photographer of the Year'The incubator bird' by Gerry Pearce, Winner 2017, Behaviour: Birds

The jellyfish jockey Anthony Berberian Wildlife Photographer of the Year'The jellyfish jockey' by Anthony Berberian, Winner 2017, Underwater

The night raider Marcio Cabral Wildlife Photographer of the Year'The night raider' by Marcio Cabral, Winner 2017, Animals in Their Environment

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 exhibition is at the Natural History Museum, London, and runs from 20 October 2017 until 28 May 2018. Adults £13.50, child and concessions £8, members and patrons of the NHM go free. For more information, visit the Natural History Museum website.

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