WPY 2012

Photograph Details

Winner 2012

Behaviour: Mammals

Grégoire Bouguereau, France

Practice run

When a female cheetah caught but didn’t kill a Thomson’s gazelle calf and waited for her cubs to join her, Grégoire guessed what was about to happen. He’d spent nearly a decade studying and photographing cheetahs in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, and he knew that the female’s behaviour meant one thing: a hunting lesson was due to begin. The female moved away, leaving the calf lying on the ground near her cubs. At first, the cubs took no notice of it. But when it struggled jerkily to its feet ‘the cubs’ natural predatory instincts were triggered,’ says Grégoire. ‘Each cub’s gaze locked on to the calf as it made a break for freedom.’ The lesson repeated itself several times, with the cubs ignoring the calf when it was on the ground and catching it whenever it tried to escape – ‘an exercise that affords the cubs the chance to practise chases in preparation for the time they’ll have to do so for real.’

Technical specification

Nikon D3 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1/1250 sec at f2.8 (-0.7 e/v); ISO 400.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: latitude -2.33333, longitude 34.8333 Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: latitude -2.33333, longitude 34.8333

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

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Grégoire Bouguereau, France

« I got my first camera when I was a student. The contemplative dimension of photography appealed to me immediately, and this camera – the perfect excuse to set out – became a faithful travel companion. The vast African expanses, which I had already read about in books and seen in documentaries, were a part of my childhood dreams; the kind of dreams that cling to you wherever you go and may be conjured up at the first opportunity to fulfil them; dreams that are all the more vivid for having been cooped up for so long… So I can’t reasonably say that my finding myself in the midst of African wildlife one fine day all happened by chance. Right from the start, the simplicity, the freedom of this life in its natural setting, deeply fascinated me. It was like a revelation, coupled with an encounter, and marked the starting point of a unique experience… South Africa – that’s where it all began; that’s what disrupted my original travel plans. Among the multiple life forms that were unfolding before me, my attention was especially caught by a female leopard. This mesmerizing encounter led me to try and find as many opportunities as possible to observe her, to get to know a little more about the day-to-day life of one of the most mysterious creatures of the bush; that’s how I got to witness the formative experiences of three successive litters – the focus of Saseka, my first book. Whenever I spend a long time in the wild, I am deeply moved by the feeling of being a part of it all. What makes this emotion so special and powerful during these immersions in this environment is that I have never experienced it anywhere else so far. It is impossible to ignore such a feeling and not attempt to understand it, and, in addition, to help others understand it in turn. It is hard to set such an objective if one is not prepared to delve into this phenomenon and observe it long and hard. The projects I am currently involved in are therefore managed in collaboration with scientific research teams and conservation programmes and have as much to do with ethology as with photography. » – GB

  • Seized opportunity