A bird's-eye view of a nature reserve with a bushfire cutting through it in the middle.

Robert Irwin, son of the late conservation activist Steve Irwin, is a wildlife photographer and children's TV personality. © Robert Irwin.  

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 56: People's Choice Award winner announced

Robert Irwin's dramatic bird's-eye view depicting the destruction wreaked by a bushfire in Northern Australia has won the 2020 Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award.

Titled 'Bushfire,' the drone image received a staggering 55,485 votes from around the world, making it a solid winner of the People's Choice Award 56. 

Taken in the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Queensland, the area is of high conservation value and is home to over 30 different ecosystems with many endangered species.

Robert spotted smoke billowing out in the horizon and knew this was something he had to capture.

Flying his drone right into the thick of it all, Robert managed to frame the angry, jagged orange line of the bushfire in the centre, flanked by a pristine natural conservation area on one side and the blackened, smoky remains of the damage on the other.

Robert says, 'I am incredibly excited to win the Wildlife Photographer of The Year People's Choice Award. For me, nature photography is about telling a story to make a difference for the environment and our planet. I feel it is particularly special for this image to be awarded, not only as a profound personal honour but also as a reminder of our effect on the natural world and our responsibility to care for it.' 

Museum Director Doug Gurr says, 'Robert's image is both stirring and symbolic. Last year the world stood aghast at the devastating wildfires that struck much of Australia, and this photograph depicts just one example of a staggering biodiversity loss caused by the detrimental impacts of climate change, habitat loss and pollution. 

'But it is by no means too late for us to act. I hope those who see this image are enthused to learn more about the problems our natural world faces but also to take action in their daily lives - be it changing dietary or travel habits or even joining a local wildlife volunteering group.'

A ranger kneels and presses his head gently to a rhino.

Highly Commended: 'The Last Goodbye' portrays a heart-warming bond between ranger and rhino.

Shortlisted to 25 images out of more than 49,000 entries, wildlife photography fans decided Robert's photos depicted a vital story that needed the spotlight.

The winning image, along with the four highly commended photos will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London when the Museum reopens. The exhibition will be open until 1 August 2021.