The Year’s Best Wildlife Photos Remind Us Why Nature Is Worth Fighting For

By Yessenia Funes on at

Nature can be glorious, miraculous, and sometimes downright brutal. Not all of us get to witness the amazing feats of the natural world happening in the flesh, though. Luckily, we have wildlife photographers whose riveting images can help bring the wilderness into our living rooms.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award was announced Tuesday at London’s Natural History Museum. The winner, Yongqing Bao of Qinghai, China, captured the moment a marmot reacts in shock at a Tibetan fox about to pounce. The photo is pretty funny, but it also communicates the terrifying reality animals face out there. You can almost hear the marmot’s scream.

“Photographically, it is quite simply the perfect moment,” Roz Kidman Cox, chair of the judging panel, said in a press release announcing the winners. “The expressive intensity of the postures holds you transfixed, and the thread of energy between the raised paws seems to hold the protagonists in perfect balance.”

The photos are a reminder that our planet is worth fighting for in an era of rising extinction worries and a dying planet. Maybe for you, the photo of a big fin reef squid that won 14-year-old Cruz Erdmann Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year is your reminder. For me, it’s Shangzhen Fan’s photo of a snow-covered desert, pictured above. This year’s award winners have something for everyone.

We’ve rounded up our favourites.

“The Moment” shows the delicate dance between life and death on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China’s Qilian Mountains National Nature Reserve. (Photo: Yongqing Bao, China/Joint Winner 2019, Behaviour: Mammals)

“The Huddle” displays more than 5,000 male emperor penguins on the sea ice of Antarctica’s Atka Bay. (Photo: Stefan Christmann, Germany/Winner 2019, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio Award)

“Early riser” shows us a female gelada with a week-old infant hanging onto her chest on the high plateau in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park. (Photo: Riccardo Marchgiani, Italy/Winner 2019, 15-17 years old)

“Frozen moment” is a stunning photo of two male Dall’s sheep fighting in the Yukon. (Photo: Jérémie Villet, France/Winner 2019, Rising Star Portfolio Award)

“Creation” isn’t about animals; it’s about the red hot lava that flowed out of Hawaii’s Kîlauea Volcano last year. (Photo: Luis Vilariño Lopez, Spain/Winner 2019, Earth’s Environments)

“The rat pack” is every city dweller’s nightmare. New Yorkers know this reality all too well, as captured here in Lower Manhattan. (Photo: Charlie Hamilton James, UK/Winner 2019, Urban Wildlife)

“Snow exposure” provides a portrait of the American bison in Yellowstone National Park in its natural element. (Photo: Max Waugh, USA/Winner 2019, Black and White)

“The garden of eels” is a surreal image of garden eels covering a slope off Dauin in the Philippines. (Photo: David Doubilet, USA/Winner 2019, Under Water)

“Another barred migrant” brings together the issue of the US-Mexico border crisis with the greater environmental crisis. (Photo: Alejandro Prieto, Mexico/Winner 2019, Wildlife Photojournalism: Single Image)

“Night glow” presents a bigfin reef squid off the coast of Indonesia during a night dive. (Photo: Cruz Erdmann, New Zealand/Winner 2019, 11-14 years old)

Featured image: Shangzhen Fan, China (Winner 2019, Animals in Their Environment)