WPY 2017

Photograph Details

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017

Grand title winner

Winner 2017

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Brent Stirton, South Africa

Memorial to a species

Taken as part of an undercover investigation into the illegal trade in rhino horn, Brent’s winning image tells the evocative story of one of the trade’s latest victims – a black rhino bull from South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park. The poachers responsible are thought to have come from a local community, working to order. After entering the reserve illegally, they ambushed the rhino at a waterhole, shooting it dead before fleeing from its mutilated body.

Brent’s poignant image is symbolic of the devastating impact of the demand for rhino horn. Black rhinos were once the most numerous of the rhino species. However, it was estimated in 2015 that only 5,000 remained in the wild – a number that conservationists believe to have fallen since due to increased poaching. These critically endangered animals will become extinct unless effective and compelling action is taken.

‘When an image shocks and assaults us, there needs to be good reason. With this one, there is. The stark simplicity forces us to witness the brutal, tragic, stupid waste of a poacher’s work. If we feel disgust it is at our own species, while we pity the black bull rhino for its ghastly death, killed by two shots just so that its horn could be hacked off to supply illegal trade in a questionable “medicine”. There is a horrible intimacy to the photograph: it draws us in and invites us to explore our response and responsibility.’
Lewis Blackwell, Chair of the jury

Technical specification

Canon EOS-1D X; 28mm f2.8 lens; 1/250 sec at f9; ISO 200; flash.


Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, South Africa: latitude -28.220312, longitude 31.95164 Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, South Africa: latitude -28.220312, longitude 31.95164

Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, South Africa

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Brent Stirton, South Africa

Brent is a photojournalist who spends half of the year on environmental issues and the other half on more conventional photojournalistic themes. He is represented by Verbatim by Getty Images and most of his work is shot for National Geographic magazine.

  • The real cost
  • Waste product
  • Sunset over the land of rhinos
  • Weighing up the value
  • Learning to fight back
  • The consumer
  • Out of Africa
  • Ivory trash
  • A traditional killing
  • Blessed profits
  • From tooth to totem
  • The end of elephants
  • Bred to be killed
  • Value choice
  • Trophies and trade
  • Choreography of the kill
  • Lion guardians
  • Living with lions
  • The spoils of war
  • Survivors
  • In the firing line
  • The price they pay
  • Ivory widows
  • Ivory haul
  • Memorial to a species
  • The rhino-horn farmer
  • Saving Hope
  • Last of a kind
  • Caring for Lulah
  • Point of sale