Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019 winning images
Photographer Yongqing Bao's image wins the grand title with an extraordinary image of a Tibetan fox pouncing on a startled marmot in China's Qilian Mountains.
The Moment shows a rarely observed species displaying behaviour that few people have ever witnessed before. The image was awarded the grand title in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which received over 48,000 entries from 100 countries.
The picture captures the instant a female Tibetan fox, hunting to keep her three cubs alive, engages in a fight for survival with a Himalayan marmot.
Roz Kidman Cox, the Chair of the judging panel, says 'Photographically, it is quite simply the perfect moment. The expressive intensity of the postures holds you transfixed, and the thread of energy between the raised paws seems to hold the protagonists in perfect balance.
'Images from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are rare enough, but to have captured such a powerful interaction between a Tibetan fox and a marmot - two species key to the ecology of this high-grassland region - is extraordinary.
Life on the roof of the world
Tibetan foxes (Vulpes ferrilata) are only found on the high Tibetan and Ladakh plateaus, which extend into Nepal, China, India and Bhutan.
While the foxes are wide-ranging and so not necessarily rare, living at altitudes of up to 5,300 metres on the plateau's isolated steppes means that they are difficult to observe. In fact, this remoteness has contributed to the lack of scientific knowledge about the striking-looking canines.
Very little is known about the foxes. While they are only listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the grasslands on which they live are used by livestock herders which bring them indirectly into conflict with humans.
The foxes are not hunted or persecuted in any significant way, but the prey on which they rely on is. The foxes are dependent on a small mammal known as the plateau pika, a species which has been subject to eradication attempts. If the pikas are wiped out, the foxes will be quick to follow.
Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, says, 'This compelling picture captures nature's ultimate challenge: its battle for survival.
'The area in which this was taken, often referred to as the "Third Pole" because of the enormous water reserves held by its ice fields, is under threat from dramatic temperature rises like those seen in the Arctic.
'At a time when precious habitats are facing increasing climate pressures, seeing these fleeting yet fascinating moments reminds us of what we need to protect.'
About Yongqing Bao
Born and raised in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau area, Bao was fascinated by the local wildlife. He is now the Director and Chief Ecological Photographer of the Qilian Mountain Nature Conservation Association of China.
He is also a member of the Qinghai Photographers Association and Deputy Secretary-General of the Qinghai Wildlife Photographers Association. His work has been published in many magazines and newspapers and awarded in several international competitions.
'During years of photography, I have come to realize that there is a long way to go in terms of environmental conservation,' he says.
'As a photographer, I believe that it is my responsibility to let people know that wild animals are indispensable friends to humans.'
The young winner
The top prize for Young Photographer of the Year has been awarded to Cruz Erdmann for his otherworldly picture of a displaying big-finned reef squid. He took the shot during a night dive in the Lembeh Strait off the coast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Captured just after the cephalopod was trying to woo a potential mate, the animal strikes a pose with its two arms outstretched as it flickers iridescent colours across the surface of its skin.
Theo Bosboom, nature photographer and member of this year's judging panel, says, 'To dive in the pitch dark, find this beautiful squid and be able to photograph it so elegantly, to reveal its wonderful shapes and colours, takes so much skill.
'What a resounding achievement for such a young photographer.'
Visit the exhibition
The two winning images will feature alongside the 98 other photographs across 19 categories in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Museum.
From gardens of eels to colonies of albatrosses, the images capture some of the most elusive animals in spectacular landscapes from around the planet.
The exhibition will be open from 18 October 2019 to 31 May 2020. Book tickets here.
For keen photographers, the next Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition opens for entries on Monday 21 October.