A photograph of a group of snow leopards on a grassy mountainside

Snow leopard summer © Xiaoyun Luo

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: conservation success stories

Scientists, conservationists and wildlife experts are working to secure the futures of some of the world's most threatened species.

Discover their success stories through the Wildlife Photographer of the Year archive.

Stay close - Maxime Aliaga

Since 2011, more than 120 confiscated apes, survivors of the world's wildlife trade, have been released into the Pinus Jantho Nature Reserve of Sumatra, Indonesia. 

A mother orangutan reaches for her baby among the branches.

Stay close © Maxime Aliaga

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program aims to establish new genetically viable and self-sustaining wild populations of orangutans as a safety net against their decline.

This mother, Marconi, was once held captive as an illegal pet, but was nursed back to health and released in 2011. In 2017, she was spotted with a wild born baby, Masen, who is a symbol of hope for the future population.

 

Lynx on the threshold - Sergio Marijuán

Once widespread on the Iberian Peninsula, the Iberian lynx is now only found in two small populations in southern Spain, making it one of the world's most endangered felines.

A photograph of a lynx standing in a doorway

Lynx on the threshold © Sergio Marijuán

Sergio waited months for his carefully set camera trap to give him the picture he wanted: a young Iberian lynx perfectly framed in the doorway of an abandoned hayloft.

Hunting and habitat loss pushed this species to the brink of extinction by 2002, when fewer than 100 lynxes could be found on the peninsula.

Thanks to intensive conservation efforts, populations have recently started to recover, and numbers are on the rise.

 

Memorial to the Albatrosses - Thomas Peschak 

Despite the apparent morbidity of Thomas's image, it actually illustrates a conservation success story.

A photograph of a number of dead albatross displayed in a group

Memorial to the Albatrosses © Thomas Peschak

In 2011, many species of seabird, including albatrosses, were pushed to the brink of extinction with up to 320,000 being killed each year by longline fishing practices.

Established in 2006 by Birdlife International and the RSPB, the Albatross Task Force is working across the globe to introduce simple practices such as using bird-scaring lines, weighting hooks and setting lines at night when the birds are less active, to reduce seabird fatalities.

In 2021, the taskforce celebrated a major victory following a paper showing that seabird deaths in the Namibian demersal longline fishery have been reduced by 98%, saving around 22,000 birds every year.

Tigerland - Emmanuel Rondeau

Over the last century the world has lost 97% of the tiger population, and in 2015, Bhutan was home to just 103 wild tigers. 

A photo of a tiger in a forest

Tigerland © Emmanuel Rondeau

Threatened by habitat destruction, conflict with humans and poaching, these iconic big cats are endangered across all 13 countries that make up what is left of their natural range.

Emmanuel climbed 700 meters through Bhutan's dense forests, following tracks, scratches and faeces to find the perfect spot for his camera traps.

Fortunately, Bhutan's tiger population has been on the rise for a number of years thanks to an established network of wildlife corridors, protected and perpetually forested areas and regular monitoring of tiger movement.

Wolf mountain - Lorenzo Shroubridge

Across the world, wolves are reclaiming territory and slowly inching themselves back from the brink of extinction. Lorenzo's atmospheric shot shows a pack of wolves treading their usual path across the Italian Alps in the dead of night.

A pack of wolves crossing a mountain pass at night

Wolf mountain © Lorenzo Shroubridge

Widely considered a threat to livestock, and therefore livelihoods, wolves were hunted to near extinction as human settlement expanded across Europe.

The loss of wild landscapes to urbanisation and farmland further restricted their natural habitat and wild prey, making attacks on livestock more likely.

In recent years, rewilding efforts have sparked a chain reaction, boosting prey numbers for wolves and increasing their wild roaming territory. In Italy and across the world, the reintroduction of wolves by conservation initiatives has gone hand in hand with a boost in biodiversity.

A portrait of a gorilla with it's eyes closed in the rain

Reflection © Majed Ali

Reflection - Majed Ali

Mountain gorillas, which are a subspecies of the critically endangered eastern gorilla, live in two small and separate populations, high in the mountain forests that border the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. 

Majed trekked for four hours to reach an altitude of over 1,400 metres, where he took this peaceful portrait of almost-40-year-old mountain gorilla, Kibande.

Threatened by decades of war, hunting and habitat destruction for agriculture, it was once believed that the species would be extinct by the end of the twentieth century.

Landscape conservation, a curb in the bushmeat trade and local involvement in conservation and protection have meant that in recent years mountain gorilla numbers have started to rise once again.

 

 

Head Start - Dhritiman Mukherjee

Gharials, fish eating relatives of crocodiles, were once found in rivers from Bhutan to Pakistan. However, in recent decades habitat destruction has led them to become critically endangered.

A photo of an adult gharial carrying its many young on it's back

Head Start © Dhritiman Mukherjee

Gharials rely on sandy riverbank habitats to provide a safe place to nest and care for their young. Unfortunately, these same riverbeds are routinely mined to extract sand to make concrete, which is demanded around the world to construct buildings and lay new roads.

By removing vast amounts of sand from the bottom of rivers, miners increase the depth and capacity of waterways allowing the water to drain more quickly, effectively destroying the shallow wetland environments that gharials rely on.

In recent years, in response to a dramatic decline in gharial numbers, the Indian government has designated protected areas for gharial breeding and worked with organisations such as WWF-India to support reintroduction through captive breeding projects. Gharial numbers are finally beginning to rise thanks to crucial intervention.

 

Rich reflections - Justin Gilligan

Off the coast of Australia, in the Tasman Sea, lies the tiny wilderness of Lord Howe Island. Hailed as one of the last truly untouched landscapes on Earth, this island and the surrounding waters show the undeniable benefits of nature conservation and protection.

A diver floats in a seaweed forest

Rich reflections © Justin Gilligan

Justin travelled to the island in the hopes of photographing the area's underwater seaweed forests in the world's southernmost tropical reef.

Seaweed forests like this one support hundreds of species while also capturing carbon and producing oxygen for our planet.

Since 1999, the waters surrounding the island have been designated as a marine park. Regulations are in place to protect the ecosystem from biodiversity loss and overfishing.