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Meet the Best Wildlife Photographs of the Year 2021

 It is finally that time of the year when the Natural History Museum of London announces the winners of the biggest international wildlife photography competition in the world - the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. The 2021 competition is the 57th anniversary of awards, and over 50,000 entries by contestants from 95 countries have been submitted.
At last, we know this year’s winner of the prestigious competition - the French biologist and underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta. It took five years for Ballesta to capture this mysterious deep-sea photo of camouflage groupers spawning in the light of the full moon near the Fakarava Atoll in French Polynesia. Scroll down to see this stunning and thought-provoking image along with this year’s category winners and honorable mentions.

Animal Portraits Category Winner: 'Reflection' by Majed Ali

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Majed Ali
Photographer's note: This is Kibande. She is 40 years old, and she's a rare mountain gorilla, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla that lives at high altitudes at the Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. In this image, Kibande is seen enjoying the refreshing rain.

Birds Behavior Category Winner: 'The Intimate Touch' by Shane Kalyn

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Shane Kalyn
Photographer's note: "Ravens probably mate for life. This couple exchanged gifts – moss, twigs, and small stones – and preened and serenaded each other with soft warbling sounds to strengthen their relationship or ‘pair bond’."

Rising Star Portfolio Award Category Winner: 'Family at Ease' by Martin Gregus

Photographer's note: Two polar bear cubs suckling and purring. The photographer describes their purring as ‘an unbelievable sound, like little helicopters buzzing away.’

Photojournalist Story Award Category Winner: 'Flying Rescue' by Brent Stirton

Photographer's note: Pilot Anthony from the Virunga National Park takes two orphaned chimpanzees to the rehabilitation center after being rescued from traffickers.
 

Natural Artistry, Highly Commended: 'Stardust' by Christian Spencer

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Christian Spencer
Photographer's note: The wings of the black jacobin are ‘filled with rainbows’ as it flies in front of the sun. The optical illusion is created as light is split through the gaps in between the bird's feathers.

Plants and Fungi Highly Commended: 'Mushroom Magic' by Juergen Freund

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Juergen Freund
Photographer's note: Bioluminescent ghost fungus growing on a dead tree. Scientists aren't sure why these fungi have this curious property of glowing in the dark.

Plants And Fungi Highly Commended: 'The Fantastical Rainforest' by Daniel Rosengren

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Daniel Rosengren
Photographer's note: Chiribiquete National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2018, is Colombia’s biggest protected natural area.

Oceans - The Bigger Picture Category Winner: 'Nursery Meltdown' by Jennifer Hayes

Photographer's note: Harp seals giving birth to their cubs on fractured sea ice.
 

Animal Portraits Highly Commended: 'Storm Fox' by Jonny Armstrong

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Jonny Armstrong
Photographer's note: A red fox warily approaching the camera.

Animals in Their Environment Category Winner: 'Grizzly Leftovers' by Zack Clothier

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Zack Clothier
Photographer's note: Grizzlies are not teddy bears. They spend half of the year in torpor, a lighter form of hibernation. In spring, hungry grizzly bears emerge from their dens and consume a lot of food, including mammals.

11-14 Years Highly Commended: 'Apollo Landing' by Emelin Dupieux

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Emelin Dupieux
Photographer's note: Beautiful Apollo butterflies feeding and fluttering on a flower-filled meadow.

Animals in Their Environment Highly Commended: 'Snow Leopard Summer' by Xiaoyun Luo

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Xiaoyun Luo
Photographer's note: A female snow leopard and her three cubs enjoying a sunny day in the Himalayas.

Wetlands - The Bigger Picture Highly Commended: 'Turtle In Paradise' by Henley Spiers

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Henley Spiers
Photographer's note: A red-eared slider turtle (an invasive species) in the Aktun Ha cenote in Mexico. Cenotes are linked freshwater pools in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
15-17 Years Category Winner: 'High-Flying Jay' by Lasse Kurkela
Photographer's note: "Lasse wanted to give a sense of scale in his photograph of the Siberian jay, tiny among the old-growth spruce-dominated forest."
 
Oceans - The Bigger Picture Highly Commended: 'Net Loss' by Audun Rikardsen
2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Audun Rikardsen
Photographer's note: "Marine biologist Audun was on an expedition at sea with the Norwegian coastguard when he spotted this floating mass of dead and dying herring. On the horizon bobbed a fishing boat, which had overloaded and burst its nets."

 Urban Wildlife Category Winner: 'The Spider Room' by Gil Wizen

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Gil Wizen
Photographer's note: "After noticing tiny spiders all over his bedroom, Gil looked under his bed. There, guarding its brood, was one of the world’s most venomous spiders. Before safely relocating it outdoors, he photographed the human-hand-sized Brazilian wandering spider using forced perspective to make it appear even larger."

Behavior: Mammals Category Winner: 'Head to Head' by Stefano Unterthiner

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Stefano Unterthiner
Photographer's note: Two reindeer clashing antlers to secure their territory. The winner will get the best opportunity to breed.

Portfolio Award Category Winner: 'The Nursery Mouth' by Angel Fitor

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Angel Fitor
Photographer's note: Female yellow sand cichlid shelter their eggs in the mouth for 3 weeks. When the baby fish are ready to swim, they are released into the wild.

Photojournalism Category Winner: 'Elephant in The Room' by Adam Oswell

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners
Photographer's note: "A group of visitors watch and take photos as a young elephant performs tricks underwater at a zoo in Thailand."

Underwater Adult Grand Title Winner 2021: 'Creation' by Laurent Ballesta

2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Laurent Ballesta
Photographer's note: "For five years Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night to see the annual spawning of camouflage groupers. Spawning happens around the full moon in July, when up to 20,000 fish gather in Fakarava in a narrow southern channel linking the lagoon with the ocean. Overfishing threatens this species, but here the fish are protected within a biosphere reserve."
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