Wildlife Photos Of 2017: Beauty And Sorrow Under The Lens

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is an annual international showcase of the very best in nature photography. This year, the contest attracted nearly 50,000 entries from 92 countries. Here are the 15 most compelling wildlife photos of 2017.

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1. Winter Pause - Black And White Finalist

Winter is a tough time for northern animals. The red squirrel just closed its eyes for a moment, paws together, fur fluffed, then resumed its search for food. On this cold February morning, the squirrel's demeanor encapsulated the spirit of winter.

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2. Bear Hug - 11-14 Years Old Finalist

After fishing for clams at low tide, this mother brown bear was leading her young spring cubs back across the beach to the nearby meadow. But one young cub just wanted to stay and play. The photo is a cameo of brown bear family life.

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3. Swim Gym - Mammals Finalist

Weddell seals are the world's most southerly breeding mammals. They give birth on the ice and take their pup swimming a week or two later. In this picture, a mother is introducing her pup to the icy water and they look so at ease.

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4. Arctic Treasure - Animal Portraits Finalist

The foxes of Wrangel Island in the Russian Far East suffer a long winter. They usually store food in the summer time bonanza when snow geese lay in open nests. A fox may steal 40 eggs a day, and most of them are buried in shallow holes.

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5. Contemplation- Animal Portraits Winner

In Uganda's Kibale National Park, Peter had spent a long, difficult morning tracking and enticing a female chimpanzee down from the canopy. Eventually, "he lay back, hands behind his head, as if dreaming of what could have been."

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6. Palm-oil Survivors - Single Image Winner

In Sabah, the palm-oil trade is a major driver of deforestation, squeezing elephants into plantations where they were often poisoned or shot. In this pic, three generations of Bornean elephants edge their way through a cleared oil palm plantation.

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7. Polar Pas De Deux - Black And White Winner

On the icy waters in Arctic Norway, a polar bear and her cub in synchrony taste the stained snow leaking from Eilo's ship with their back legs pressed together. Ashamed, Eilo framed this shot to emphasise the pollution on the pristine environment.

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8. Saguaro Twist - Plants And Fungi Finalist

The saguaro cacti is up to 200 years old and may tower at more than 12 meters. As the gentle dawn light bathed the curved branches, the wide angle reveals its furrowed arms, perfectly framing its neighbors before the distant Sand Tank Mountains.

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9. Bold Eagle - Animal Portraits Finalist

The bald eagle was soaked to the skin after several days of constant rain. The birds gather to take advantage of the fishing industry's leftovers at Dutch Harbor in Alaska. The species was declining dramatically until the 1960s.

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10. Giant Gathering - Behavior: Mammals Winner

Dozens of sperm whales mingled noisily off Sri Lanka's northeast coast, like a kind of congregation, which could be "a sign that populations are recovering." The tactile contact helps slough off dead skin and reinforce social bonds.

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11. The Night Raider - Animals In Their Environment Winner

Marcio had camped out in the Emas National Park, Brazil for 3 years to capture the glowing mounds. After days of frustrating rain, the termite mounds twinkle with green lights luring adult termites, while a giant anteater awaits.

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12. Sewage Surfer - Single Image Finalist

Seahorses hitch rides on the currents by grabbing floating objects such as seaweed with their prehensile tails. But as the tide of rubbish and sewage comes in, the seahorse seized upon this cotton bud as a stable anchor.

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13. Tapestry Of Life - Plants And Fungi Winner

On a quiet morning, Dorin stood alone in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, contemplating the immense landscape, when shafts of light warmed the great walls of metamorphic rock. He composed this shot of a timeless landscape reluctant to give up its scale.

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14. The Incubator Bird - Behaviour: Birds Winner

Australian brush turkeys hatch their eggs with heat generated from rotting vegetation. Males monitor the mound's temperature to keep it at 33°C. Too hot, they must remove leaf little; too cool, they (like this male) will pile on more insulation.

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15. Memorial To A Species - Grand Title Winner

This pic frames a recently shot and dehorned black rhino in South Africa's Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. The endangered rhino is still slaughtered for illegal trade, which shows an inescapable part of human exploitation of the natural world.

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