British amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani has clinched the coveted Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award with his enchanting image titled Ice Bed depicting a young polar bear peacefully drifting into slumber on a bed sculpted into an iceberg.
Sarikhani's winning shot was captured after a three-day expedition off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Amid thick fog, the expedition vessel altered its course, eventually encountering two polar bears. In a mesmerizing moment just before midnight, the young male bear climbed onto a small iceberg and meticulously crafted a bed using his powerful paws.
Expressing his gratitude for winning the prestigious award, Sarikhani voiced his hope that the image would not only raise awareness about the pressing issue of climate change but also inspire optimism, underscoring the possibility of rectifying the damage caused by human activity.
Among the highly commended finalists were images that resonated with wildlife enthusiasts worldwide. These included Tzahi Finkelstein's The Happy Turtle, capturing a captivating interaction between a Balkan pond turtle and a northern banded groundling dragonfly, and Daniel Dencescu's Starling Murmuration, which immortalized the moment a murmuration of starlings formed the shape of a bird.
Dr. Douglas Gurr, the Director of the Natural History Museum, commended Sarikhani's work commenting, “Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet. His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss.”
Other notable entries include Mark Boyd's Shared Parenting, showing two lionesses grooming one of the pride's five cubs in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, while Audun Rikardsen's capture Aurora Jellies showcased two moon jellyfish illuminated by the aurora borealis in a Norwegian fjord.
This year, a record-breaking number of over 75,000 wildlife photography enthusiasts from across the globe participated in voting for their favorite among the 25 stunning images contending for the award. These remarkable images were handpicked from a shortlist of 25 by the Natural History Museum, London, and an international judging panel, out of nearly 50,000 submissions for the fifty-ninth Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
All five winning images, including Sarikhani's Ice Bed, will be showcased online and in an accompanying exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, until June 30, 2024.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition curated by The Natural History Museum London aims to highlight compelling stories from the natural world, fostering advocacy for environmental conservation. Both amateur and professional photographers worldwide are invited to enter with images that embody people’s connection with wildlife and nature. The winners of the sixtieth edition of the competition are currently being deliberated upon by an international panel of experts, with the announcement scheduled to take place at the annual awards ceremony in South Kensington.
Read our guide to help choose the best camera for wildlife photography if you need a hand.