picture of a bear with its young

Credit: Ashleigh Scully

Bear Hug, Finalist in the 11-14 Years Old category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: amazing mothers

Rearing young is a difficult and dangerous job for mothers in many species. Getting it right is often vital for the survival of future generations.

From the cute and caring to the heart-breaking and courageous, this selection of eight Wildlife Photographer of the Year images celebrate representations of motherhood in the competition.

When Mother Knows Best - Tim Laman

This inquisitive month-old orangutan will be hanging around with Mum for a while: orangutan mothers care for their young for a least seven years - longer than all other mammals except humans.

Photograph of a Museum display dating to World War 1 exploring an infestation of army biscuits

Credit: Tim Laman

Joint Winner 2016, The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Story

In Tim Laman's image from the 2016 competition, the baby watches carefully to see which flower its mother is eating. Orangutan mothers pass on a wealth of important cultural information, including what to eat and how to find it.

Mama's Back - Ashleigh Scully

When this exhausted-looking female fox appeared through the trees, her cubs bounded over for some playtime that she couldn't turn down. 

a fox mother with its young

Credit: Ashleigh Scully

Finalist 2015, 11-14 Years Old

Ashleigh Scully snapped the heart-warming scene outside her cabin at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The resulting photograph featured in the 2015 competition.

She says, 'There was so much affection between them.'

Fox cubs are born in spring, and families stay together until autumn. Mothers regurgitate food for their cubs in the first couple of months of their lives, and then bring back live prey so that youngsters can develop hunting skills. By summer, visits to the den become less frequent, and the young learn to find food and fend for themselves.

A Mother's Courage - Linc Gasking

This brave Adélie penguin mother faced down the southern giant petrel that was menacing her chicks.

An Adélie penguin defnding her chicks

Credit: Linc Gasking

Finalist 2015, People's Choice Award

Linc Gasking's image of courageous motherhood was a Finalist for the 2015 People's Choice Award.

This mother's instinct to fight protect her young is displayed in myriad species across the animal kingdom.

Kuhirwa Mourns Her Baby - Ricardo Núñez Montero

This young mountain gorilla called Kuhirwa would not let go of her dead baby. She cuddled and cared for the tiny body, carrying it on her back like the other mothers in her group. Some weeks later, she started to eat the remains.

A gorilla holding the remains of her dead baby

Credit: Ricardo Núñez Montero

Winner 2018, Behaviour: Mammals

Ricardo Núñez Montero's scene of grief from the 2018 competition was taken at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Kuhirwa's actions display obvious signs of a mother mourning her child. There is plenty of evidence to show that many animals, from dolphins to elephants, visibly express grief.

Mara Mama Calls - Darío Podestá

A mara mother returned to her burrow and whistled before three pups emerged. The female sniffed each one to make sure only her two young were suckled.

A mara returning to her burrow to suckle her young

Credit: Darío Podestá

Finalist 2016, Mammals

Darío Podestá captured the scene from a distance with a remote trigger for the 2016 competition.

Many pairs of Patagonian maras hide their young in the same den and return each day for the mother to suckle its offspring. These communal burrows offer extra protection from predators, as there is often more than one adult pair watching the den.

Mother Defender - Javier Aznar González de Rueda

This image of a mother guarding her young on the underside of a stem demonstrates the mothering behaviour that exists in many insects.

a treehopper guarding its young on the underside of a branch

Credit: Javier Aznar González de Rueda

Winner 2018, Wildlife Photographer Portfolio Award

Javier Aznar González de Rueda found the treehopper by the kitchen of the forest lodge he was staying in.

The spiny projection on the treehopper's back is called a helmet, and is used to ward off predators. Once her eggs hatch, the young develop through five stages, and the devoted mother watches over them throughout.

Sunset Moment - Olivier Puccia

As the Sun began to set above Ramtek in Maharashtra, India, a mother and baby Hanuman langur embraced as they stared over the valley below.

A baby Hanuman langur and its mother looking across a valley

Credit: Olivier Puccia

Highly commended 2010, Urban Wildlife

Olivier Puccia found the highest point from which to photograph the glorious scene.

'It was a touching moment,' says Olivier, 'as though they were appreciating the sunset together.'

Pushed out of their forest homes by deforestation and the spread of human habitation, Hanuman langurs are now a familiar sight in many urban areas of India. Local people often feed the monkeys and revere them as the reincarnation of the Hindu deity Hanuman.

Visit Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A new exhibition will be showing at the Museum from 18 October 2019 until 31 May 2020. Book tickets now.