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October 4 is the World Animal Day. It is a day of action recognised worldwide for animal rights as well as welfare. Photography has a unique ability to spark conversation, debate and even action. Let us appreciate these stunning wildlife photography works that help to spread awareness about the species and their living situations in the nature.
From a distance, the beach scene at Alabama’s Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge looked appealing: blue sky, soft sand, and a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. But as Matthew and the strandings patrol team got closer they could see the fatal noose around the turtle’s neck attached to the washed-up beach chair. The Kemp’s ridley is not only one of the smallest sea turtles – just 65 centimeters (2 feet) long – it is also the most endangered. Over the past 50 years, human activities – from egg and meat consumption to incidental capture in fishing nets – have greatly reduced its numbers. Today, despite the protection of its limited nesting sites along the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico and a requirement for trawlers to use turtle-excluders, it is still under threat. But as Matthew witnesses on his daily nesting-patrol, another danger is injury or drowning resulting from the huge amount of discarded fishing gear and rubbish that ends up in the ocean.
Cameron built his first drone with his father in 2013, all the while dreaming of photographing whales from the air. Four years later he achieved his ambition, capturing this spectacular shot of a humpback whale, its calf and their accompanying male escort. For Cameron, this image is a unique perspective of ‘nature’s most breathtaking subjects’. These whales are part of a group known as the Tongan tribe, which is classed as endangered. It lives isolated from other breeding groups, and so numbers have fallen dramatically. Sightings such as this bring hope that the population is recovering. This calf is just a few days old, and the male, hoping to mate with the mother, will defend them both from predators.
For Sergey, this photograph of a solitary polar bear walking steadily along a glacier is ‘a symbol of Franz Josef Land’. It speaks of the vulnerability of an iconic animal that depends entirely on this frozen wilderness. His powerful composition gives no hint of the biting wind and icy sea spray he had to endure while taking it. The Russian Arctic National Park has recently been expanded to include the 191 uninhabited islands of Franz Josef Land. With a lack of data for this remote region, both polar bear numbers and rates of sea ice decline are unknown. This presents problems for polar bear conservation, as researchers need data to understand the impact of climate change here.
It had been a year since Julius had set up his camera trap and he only had two records of a Eurasian lynx to show for it. Overcoming problems with failed batteries, deep snow and spider webs he was on the brink of giving up when his luck changed. As soft light hit the snow-clad branches, two kittens turned up to play, rewarding Julius with nearly 100 images. After several illegal lynx kills in Bavaria, catching sight of these shy, elusive and desperately endangered animals is a sign of hope that the population is hanging on. The Eurasian lynx has been, and continues to be, intensively hunted for its fur and perceived as a threat to livestock. Many of the current populations are the result of re-introductions.
A young Siberian tigress is laid out, awaiting an autopsy. Its emaciated body was found under a car, missing a forepaw. Undoubtedly, it had chewed off its own foot after being caught in a poacher’s trap. Unable to hunt, it would have slowly starved to death. For Antonio, seeing such a majestic animal reduced to this was heartbreaking. Siberian tigers have been hunted almost to extinction, with barely 360 left in the wild. Despite being classified as endangered for the past few decades, their numbers continue to decline, as they are hunted by poachers and their homes are lost to deforestation. Human disregard continues to decimate tiger populations, leaving their fate hanging in the balance.
In a remote forest high in the Himalayas of central Bhutan, a male Bengal tiger fixes his gaze on the camera. The path he treads runs along a network linking the country’s national parks corridors that are key to the conservation of this endangered subspecies but are unprotected from logging and poaching. At last count, just 103 were left.
A Titiwangsa horned tree lizard observes the road near the photographer's home in the mountains of Pahang, Malaysia. It had been in a furious life and death battle with a venomous Malaysian jewel centipede and won. The victor stands over its prize. The species is highly sought after by poachers for the pet trade.
A pair of African wild dog pups play a macabre game of tag with the head of a chacma baboon –the remains of their breakfast. The endangered African wild dog is best known for hunting antelope. But over the past five years, in northern Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park, three separate packs are regularly killing and eating baboons - highly unusual as baboons are capable of inflicting severe wounds.
Clamped in the jaws of a hungry hellbender salamander, things were not looking good for the northern water snake. But when its attacker repositioned its bite, the snake pushed free and escaped. David was thrilled to catch a battle between these two unlikely foes. ‘I’ve seen hellbenders display an array of behaviours, but this was by far the most remarkable,’ he says. Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in the USA and are among the most endangered. Usually they hunt for small prey, such as crayfish, insects and eggs, so a northern water snake is an unexpected choice. These amphibians use suction to secure their prey before using their teeth – a method unlikely to subdue a wriggling snake.
One of several sun bears kept behind the scenes at a zoo in Sumatra, Indonesia, in " appalling" conditions. Sun bears are the world’s smallest bears, now critically endangered by rampant deforestation and the demand for their bile and organs for traditional Chinese medicine. In the lowland forests of Southeast Asia, they spend much of their time in trees, eating fruit and small animals, using their claws to pry open rotten wood in search of grubs.
When this sun bear saw his keeper, the photographer explains, he started screaming. It was a chilling noise. Even more chilling was the nearby taxidermy museum with its stuffed pangolins and Sumatran tigers.