The final leap, Wim van den Heever, South Africa. 2015 finalist in the Mammals category of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

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The hunt is on for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

The world's most prestigious wildlife photography competition is searching for photographers, of all ages and backgrounds, whose work explores the diversity of life and the fascinating behaviour of Earth's species.

Professional and amateur photographers have from 4 January until 25 February 2016 to submit their entries on the Wildlife Photographer of the Year website.

Now in its fifty-second year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has established itself as the leading voice in contemporary nature photography. The competition has 19 categories, championing ground-breaking reportage and heralding the brightest young talent.

Never too young to start

Young photographers are encouraged to enter one of three categories for under-17s, and for them entry is free. The youngest winner of the overall Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award was just eight years old.

The international panel of judges will be on the lookout for inspiring photographs that represent the natural world as faithfully as possible. Excessive digital manipulation is not allowed and images must have honest captions. Entrants need to have shown total respect for animals in their environments.

Spanish photographer Carlos Perez Naval was just nine years old when his photograph of a common yellow scorpion won the 2014 Young Wildlife Photograher of the Year Grand Title

International audiences

Category winners receive a share of £30,000 prize money, critical acclaim, and an opportunity for their image to be viewed by millions in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which debuts at London's Natural History Museum before touring more than 40 cities worldwide.

The judging panel includes entomologist and wildlife photographer Piotr Naskrecki, German photographer Klaus Nigge and Roz Kidman Cox, a wildlife writer and former editor of BBC Wildlife magazine. Award-winning author and creative director Lewis Blackwell is chairing the panel for a second year.

Don Gutoski, whose entry A tale of two foxes was selected from over 42,000 entries to win the overall prize in 2015, had this to say about the competition:

'This has been a humbling experience, to see my photo so honoured among such a diverse and creative selection of photographs. 

'I feel the award also carries an element of responsibility, to heighten awareness of environmental issues, such as climate change. This has been an experience I will always treasure.'