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Photojournalist Brent Stirton won the grand title with an image of a shot and dehorned black rhino.
The image, Memorial to a species, was taken in South Africa's Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. It emerged as the winning shot from almost 50,000 competition entries from 92 countries.
Brent's image will be on show with 99 other photographs selected by an international panel of judges at the fifty-third Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.
Black rhinos were once the most numerous of the world's rhino species. But now they are critically endangered because of poaching and the illegal international trade in rhino horn, one of the world's most corrupt illegal wildlife networks.
Competition judge Roz Kidman Cox says, 'To make such a tragic scene almost majestic in its sculptural power deserves the highest award. There is rawness, but there is also great poignancy and therefore dignity in the fallen giant.
'It's also symbolic of one of the most wasteful, cruel and unnecessary environmental crimes, one that needs to provoke the greatest public outcry.'
For the photographer, the crime scene was one of more than thirty he visited in the course of covering this tragic story.
Sir Michael Dixon, Natural History Museum Director, says 'Brent's image highlights the urgent need for humanity to protect our planet and the species we share it with.
'The black rhino offers a sombre and challenging counterpart to the story of Hope, our blue whale.
'Like the critically endangered black rhinoceros, blue whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction, but humanity acted on a global scale to protect them. This shocking picture of an animal butchered for its horns is a call to action for us all.'
A senior correspondent for Verbatim and Getty Images, Brent has a strong focus on sustainability and the environment. He shoots mainly for National Geographic magazine.
He also works regularly for Human Rights Watch, The New York Times Magazine, Le Figaro and GEO magazine, and is a longtime photographer for WWF.
He chooses to tell stories about issues that matter, focusing on wildlife and conservation, global health, diminishing cultures and sustainability.
2017 is the first year Brent has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand title. He has won Wildlife Photographer of the Year photojournalism awards in the past, along with many other international awards for his long-term investigative projects.
Daniël Nelson won Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 with a portrait of a young western lowland gorilla from the Republic of Congo, lounging on the forest floor while eating African breadfruit (pictured above).
Daniël's image captures the similarity between wild apes and humans, and the importance of the forest on which they depend.
Daniel Beltra, competition judge and previous grand title winner, says, 'This intimate scene of a gorilla lounging on the forest floor is peaceful, a state of being we would wish for all these magnificent creatures.'
The two images were selected from 16 category winners depicting the incredible diversity of life on our planet, from displays of rarely seen animal behaviour to hidden underwater worlds.
Images from professional and amateur photographers are selected by a panel of industry-recognised professionals for their originality, artistry and technical complexity.
The exhibition is open at the Museum until 1 July.
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