Winning images announced for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018
Photographer Marsel van Oosten won the grand title with the image of two golden snub-nosed monkeys reclining in their forest home.
Taken in the Qinling Mountains of central China, the image, The Golden Couple, beat over 45,000 entries from 95 countries to win.
It will feature alongside 99 other photographs documenting the diversity and beauty of nature, selected by an international panel of judges for the fifty-fourth Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.
Chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox, says, 'This image is in one sense traditional - a portrait.
'But what a striking one, and what magical animals. It is a symbolic reminder of the beauty of nature and how impoverished we are becoming as nature is diminished. It is an artwork worthy of hanging in any gallery in the world.'
A precarious life
With around 22,000 golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana) surviving in fragmented populations across the mountains of central China, the primates are considered endangered. This is largely due to the continuing encroachment of people and the destruction and the fragmentation of the forests in which they live.
Found in the temperate forests up to altitudes of 3,400 metres, they spend their days foraging in groups of up to 10 individuals which in turn come together to form bands of as many as 600 monkeys.
While during the summer they may feed on young leaves and fruit, a large portion of the monkeys' diet is actually made up of lichen typically found on dead and dying branches. This poses a problem as people collect the dead wood to burn, sending one of the primate's primary food sources up in smoke.
Sir Michael Dixon, Natural History Museum Director says, 'In a world which is in thrall to special effects and technology, this image celebrates the majestic and otherworldly presence of nature, and reminds us of our crucial role in protecting it.'
About Marsel van Oosten
Photography started out as an escape for Marsel. Working day-to-day for an advertising agency in the Netherlands, he began taking photographs to slow down and get away from it all. But it was during a trip to Tanzania that things got serious.
The close encounters with the wildlife of the Serengeti sparked a deep interest for wildlife photography, which five years later he was able to turn into a living.
For Marsel, simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication. He uses lighting, composition, colour and perspective to simplify his images, allowing the subject to speak for itself. His work has been critically acclaimed and won many international awards, as well as being regularly featuring in magazines such as National Geographic, Audubon and Science Illustrated.
In addition to his photography, Marsel and his partner run specialised wildlife and landscape photography tours to breath-taking locations right around the world.
The young winner
Skye Meaker has been awarded Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, with an absorbing portrait of a leopard waking from a slumber in Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.
Competition judge and previous competition winner, Alexander Badyaev, says, 'With precisely executed timing and composition, we get a coveted glimpse into the inner world of one of the most frequently photographed, yet rarely truly seen, animals.'
Ever since being given his first pocket camera at the age of seven, it has been an ambition of Skye to be a wildlife photographer.
Lifetime Achievement Award
For the first time, Wildlife Photographer of the Year has awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. Presented to world renowned photographer Frans Lanting for his outstanding nature photography, he has continued to inspire and excite with his work over more than three decades.
A selection of some of his most spectacular images will be on display in the exhibition.
Visit the exhibition
The two winning images, as well as Frans Lanting's work, will feature alongside 98 other images across 19 categories at this year's exhibition at the Museum.
From the warm forests of Australia to the frigid waters of Norway, the photography showcases some of the incredible behaviour and elusive creatures that we share the planet with.
The exhibition will be open from 19 October 2018 to 1 July 2019. Book tickets now.