Winning images in Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition revealed

A tri-spine horseshoe crab gliding along the bottom of the sea has helped Laurent Ballesta win the title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year for a second time.

Horseshoe crabs have survived for more than 100 million years, but they now face habitat destruction and overfishing as they are caught for food and for their blue blood, which is used in vaccines.

The French underwater photographer and marine biologist Mr Ballesta found the creature, which dates from prehistoric times, in the protected waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines – a haven for the crabs. It is accompanied in the winning shot by three golden trevally fish.

Barn owls in roadside building
Barn owls resting in a roadside block were caught on camera by Carmel Bechler as he used his family car as a hide (Carmel Bechler/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

She said: “To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing.

“We are looking at an ancient species, highly endangered, and also critical to human health.”

Beached orca
This beached orca was later found to be sick and malnourished, likely from industrial chemical poisoning (Lennart Verheuvel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

His first award was in 2021 for a shot of camouflage grouper fish in a swirl of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award went to Carmel Bechler from Israel, for snapping several barn owls in a hollowed-out concrete building by a roadside.

He used his family’s car as a hide with long exposure times to capture the light trails of passing traffic.

Parasol mushroom spreading spores
The parasol mushroom spreads its spores on air currents in search of new places to grow (Agorastos Papatsanis/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

The winning photographs were selected from 49,957 original entries from 95 countries and were announced at an awards ceremony in South Kensington on Tuesday.

Among the 17 other category winners was a beached orca in the Netherlands photographed by Lennart Verheuvel which was later found to be malnourished and sick, likely from PCB contamination.

Bioluminescent fireflies
The bioluminescence of fireflies was captured with long exposure camera shots (Sriram Murali/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

Agorastos Papatsanis revealed how the parasol mushroom releases its spores for them to drift on air currents in search of new places to grow in his home country of Greece, on Mount Olympus, capturing the colourful refraction of light through the rain.

An illuminated forest in Tamil Nadu, India, won the Behaviour: Invertebrates award, with Sriram Murali showcasing how fireflies attract mates by combining 50 exposures of 19 seconds with 16 minutes of the beetles’ bioluminescence.

Nubian ibex
Male Nubian ibex fight during the mating season with their long horns (Amit Eshel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said: “Whilst inspiring absolute awe and wonder, this year’s winning images present compelling evidence of our impact on nature – both positive and negative.

“Global promises must shift to action to turn the tide on nature’s decline.”

Next year, the Natural History Museum will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award with new prizes and waiver fees for more than 100 countries. Submissions are open from October 16.

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