The 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners

WINNER: This was the image Paul had been so hoping to get: a sunlit mass of emperor penguins charging upwards, leaving in their wake a crisscross of bubble trails. The location was near the emperor colony at the edge of the frozen area of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year (Paul Nicklen)
Bubble jetting emperors

Bubble Jetting Emperors

WINNER: This was the image Paul had been so hoping to get: a sunlit mass of emperor penguins charging upwards, leaving in their wake a crisscross of bubble trails. The location was near the emperor colony at the edge of the frozen area of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Life in the Border Zone

The stillness of the red deer stag in the twilight made it almost invisible to motorists speeding down the highway through Jasper National Park, Canada. But its silhouette at the side of the road caught Vladimir’s eye. By the time he had pulled over, this image was already in his mind. "I wanted to show how the natural world often exists so close to us, yet is so often unseen," he says. Working swiftly, Vladimir positioned his tripod and set the shutter speed low, so that headlights would leave the longest light trail possible, and waited for a truck to thunder by, hoping the deer wouldn’t move. "The stag may have been inconspicuous, but I wasn’t. As long as I stayed there, it was no longer invisible. So I left straight away, so as not to betray its presence." —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Life in the border zone
(Vladimir Medvedev)

The Real Cost

This female southern white rhino is inseparable from her new male companion (right). It’s a miracle she is alive. Four months earlier, in Tugela Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, she was brutally attacked by poachers. The men surveyed the area by helicopter, mapped out the movements of the rhino and the guards, darted her and then, using a chainsaw, cut off her horn, including a large section of bone. They left her to die, but she was found wandering the following day in unimaginable pain. Her four-week-old calf, which had become separated, died of dehydration and starvation. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The real cost
(Brent Stirton)

Dog Days

Kim has been filming African wild dogs at Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve for more than four years. He knows one pack intimately. "I have traveled with them, on foot, in the pack itself, running with them as they hunt. It’s a privilege, and it’s given me a true insight into their life." Kim has also witnessed first hand the many threats that have made African wild dogs endangered, including increased conflict with humans and domestic animals (poachers’ snares, habitat loss, traffic and disease). "At times, it’s heart- wrenching," he says. "My mission is to dispel the myth that they’re a threat and help raise awareness of their plight." African wild dogs require huge territories, and so protecting them can protect entire ecosystems. When this picture was taken, the pack had traveled four kilometers to the Sosigi Pan, only to find it totally dried up. "The mosaic of mud seemed to epitomize the increasingly fragmented world this puppy is growing up in." —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Dog days
(Kim Wolhuter)

Last Wild Picture

These 14-month-old Bengal tiger cubs, cooling off in the Patpara Nala watering hole in Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India, turned man-eaters before they were two years old. Between them, they killed three people. But the authorities didn’t kill the tigers. Instead, they captured them and moved them to a facility for "problem" tigers in Bhopal, from which they will never be released. But elsewhere in India and everywhere in their range, tigers are being killed in huge numbers. Fewer than 3,200 remain in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago. Three of the nine subspecies (the Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers) are now officially extinct, and the South China tiger almost certainly is. The deaths are due to the devastating impact of the demand for tiger parts for traditional Chinese medicine and skyrocketing human populations, which have eliminated 93 percent of the tiger’s historic range during the 20th century. Settlements, roads, industry and agriculture all encroach on tiger territory, sparking growing human-wildlife conflict. The remaining wild tigers cling on in isolated pockets, their numbers declining rapidly. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Last wild picture
(Steve Winter)

Ice Matters

Anna was on a boat in Svalbard–an archipelago midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole–when she saw this polar bear at around four in the morning. It was October, and the bear was walking on broken-up ice floes, seemingly tentatively, not quite sure where to trust its weight. She used her fisheye lens to make the enormous animal appear diminutive and create an impression of "the top predator on top of the planet, with its ice world breaking up." The symbolism, of course, is that polar bears rely almost entirely on the marine sea ice environment for their survival, and year by year, increasing temperatures are reducing the amount of ice cover and the amount of time available for the bears to hunt marine mammals. Scientists maintain that the melting of the ice will soon become a major problem for humans as well as polar bears, not just because of rising sea levels but also because increasing sea temperatures are affecting the weather, sea currents and fish stocks. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Ice matters
(Anna Henly)

The Dolphin Show

Wandering behind the scenes at a Japanese aquarium, where captive dolphins perform for the paying public, Huang-Ju came across this scene. "I saw the workers scrubbing this tank," he says, "but then I suddenly realized there were dolphins lying in the drained pool." It was a stark reminder of how different life in a sterile aquarium is to a dolphin’s natural ocean habitat. "I was shocked," says Huang-Ju, "at how the staff ignored the dolphin and didn’t seem to be in any hurry to refill the pool." Such captivity seemed a high price for the animal to pay just for human entertainment. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The dolphin show
(Huang Ju Chen)

Midnight Feast

In the dead of night, the young whale shark was feeding close to the surface. The challenge for Tom was to capture an image of it. The whale sharks of this area in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti, eastern Africa, feed at night on zooplankton attracted to the lights of small fishing boats. These lights were too dim to allow Tom to photograph without a flash, but a flash would have disturbed the shark. So from his boat, he hung an additional light just above the water. "The cone of light was just large enough to illuminate the small whale shark emerging from the gloom," he says. "The shark was about two and a half meters long, but if it had been an adult, it would have been at least four times longer, and I would have only been able to get part of the animal illuminated in the frame." This location is the only known one where juveniles gather and the only one where whale sharks are regularly documented feeding at night. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Midnight feast
(Thomas P. Peschak)

The Glance

Two of the young Sulawesi black-crested macaques entered into a boisterous game with an older, stronger male, involving much ear-piercing shrieking and chasing. Though they were in high spirits, Jami had spent weeks with them and could tell that their play was becoming increasingly heated. When the playmates huddled briefly together, she snatched a close-up shot. But as she did, the older male threw her an intense and challenging look. "I didn’t take this lightly," Jami says, and she quickly withdrew to a safe distance. Moments later, the older macaque turned rough, and the younger ones scattered, screeching. The real drama is that these characterful primates are at high risk of extinction, both from poaching and forest loss on their Indonesian island home. —Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The glance
(Jami Tarris)

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