The Natural History Museum, London has awarded photojournalist Brent Stirton with the prestigious award for the Wildlife Photo of the Year, for his photo entitled, Memorial to a species. The photo shows a recently-dehorned black rhino in South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. Black rhinos were once one of the most numerous rhino species, but as a result of illegal international trade in rhino horn, the species is now endangered at the hands of one of the world’s most corrupt illegal wildlife networks. Stirton mainly photographs for National Geographic magazine, and focuses his work on wildlife and conservation, global health, diminishing cultures, and sustainability. This is his first time winning the Wildlife Photo of the Year grand title. He visited more than 30 similar crime scenes to take photos and expose the widespread poaching problem.
Natural History Museum Director Sir Michael Dixon said, “Brent’s image highlights the urgent need for humanity to protect our planet and the species we share it with. The black rhino offers a somber 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 a photo of a young western lowland gorilla from the Republic of Congo. The animals is seen taking a break from it all, relazing on the forest floor with an African breadfruit.
The title of the photo, The good life, reflects the gorilla’s similarity to a human who’s “just chillin’,” and simultaneously reminds us of the importance and dependence these animals have on the forest’s bounty.
Daniel Beltra, competition judge and previous grand title winner, commented on how the posture of the gorilla in the photo is a “state of being we would wish for all these magnificent creatures.”
Stirton’s rhino image was chosen as the grand title winner out of 16 other winners and beat almost 50,000 entries from 92 countries. It will be shown with 99 other images selected by an international panel of judges at the 53rd Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition Friday at the Natural History Museum in London, and will later tour across the UK and internationally to locations such as Canada, Spain, the USA, Australia and Germany.