WPY 2012

Photograph Details

Commended 2012

Animals in their Environment

Joel Sartore, USA

Lion in the spotlight

Tree-climbing is not a normal lion habit, but lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, often take to the trees in the day, probably to cool off and escape the flies. This tree held two dozing brothers. ‘It was dusk by the time the first young male woke from his nap,’ says Joel. ‘I worried about camera shake, because the light levels were next to nothing. I also worried that he wouldn’t look up so that I could see his face. He did, though, for all of five seconds, listening to a female calling in the distance.’ Joel was with Dr Ludwig Siefert, the chief biologist studying the lions in the park, who spotlit the male so it could be identified and photographed. ‘The lions are used to him and his truck and paid zero attention to us,’ says Joel. ‘But they are in trouble. Cattle herders desperate for grazing are taking their livestock into the park. When lions kill a cow, the herders often lace the carcass with poison, and the lions are poisoned when they return to finish feeding.’ Only about 60 lions remain, and Dr Siefert estimates that if nothing is done to prevent the grazing of cattle in the park, the lions will be gone within 10 years.

Technical specification

Nikon D3 + 24-70mm f2.8 lens; 1/125 sec at f2.8 (-1.3 e/v); ISO 4000.


Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda: latitude -0.161883, longitude 30.0203 Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda: latitude -0.161883, longitude 30.0203

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

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Joel Sartore, USA

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