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World Press Photo’s Best Nature Shots of 2016

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Photo: Francis Pérez
This week, the Amsterdam-based World Press Photo Foundation announced the winners of its esteemed photo contest. The top prize for photo of the year was given to Turkish photographer Burhan Ozbilici, who captured Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, a 22-year-old off-duty police officer who assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey on December 19, 2016. More than 80,000 images were submitted from across 125 countries. In the end, 45 photographers were given prizes across eight categories. Here, we look at some of the winners from the nature category, which is broken into single frames as well as multiple image stories.

Photo: Nature - First Prize, Singles - A sea turtle entangled in a fishing net swims off the coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, on June 8, 2016. Sea turtles are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and unattended fishing gear is responsible for many sea turtle deaths.

Captions are provided along with the images from the World Press Photo Foundation.
Photo: Nayan Khanolkar
Nature - Second Prize, Singles
A wild leopard strolls through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a protected area in the northern part of Mumbai city, India, on September 24, 2016. The leopard is on its nocturnal prowl in the adjacent human settlements in search of food, which in these areas is typically dogs or pigs.
Photo: Jaime Rojo
Nature - Third Prize, Singles
A carpet of monarch butterflies covers the forest floor of El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary, in Michoacán, Mexico, on March 12. A strong snow storm hit the mountains of Central Mexico on March 8 and 9, creating havoc in the wintering colonies of monarch butterflies just as they were starting their migration back north to the U.S. and Canada. Climate change is creating an increase of these unusual weather events, representing one of the biggest challenges for these actually resilient insects during their hibernation.
Photo: Brent Stirton, Getty Images for National Geographic Magazine
Nature - First Prize, Stories, Title: Rhino Wars
A black rhino bull is seen dead, poached for its horns less than eight hours earlier at Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. It is suspected that the killers came from a local community approximately three miles away, entering the park illegally, shooting the rhino at a water hole with a high-powered, silenced hunting rifle. An autopsy and postmortem carried out by members of the KwaZulu-Nata Ezemvelo ranger team later revealed that the large caliber bullet went straight through this rhino, causing massive tissue damage. It was noted that he did not die immediately, but ran a short distance, fell to his knees, and a coup de grâce shot was administered to the head from close range.
Photo: Brent Stirton, Getty Images for National Geographic Magazine
Nature - First Prize, Stories, Title: Rhino Wars
Two rhino poachers, one 19, the other 28 years old, apprehended by an anti-poaching team in Mozambique close to the Kruger National Park border. They are seen waiting to be processed in the local jail. After a three-day chase, they were caught in a roadblock and the rifle seized shortly thereafter. This was due to a coordinated effort between Kruger National Park in South Africa where the poachers intended to shoot rhino for their horns; and Sabi Game Park, a conservancy on the Mozambique side. The poachers were tracked and identified by their unique shoe pattern. They tried to say they had been on their way to buy cattle, but had no money on their persons, and, when asked, the alleged cattle owner said he did not know anything about selling his cattle. Authorities also seized a Czech CZ .458 hunting rifle, complete with a professionally built silencer. Both men admitted their guilt and will be charged under a new law which states that possession of the weapon and bullets indicates intent to poach rhino. This carries a maximum sentence of 12 years and/or $80,000. Their Toyota Hilux vehicle was also confiscated. The younger of the two poachers later led police to the homes of suspected weapons and transport suppliers, higher-ups in the rhino poaching syndicates known as level twos and threes. Those men had fled by the time the police arrived, but significant information was discovered in the form of identity documents, both real and forged, as well as banking account information.
Photo: Brent Stirton, Getty Images for National Geographic Magazine
Nature - First Prize, Stories, Title: Rhino Wars
Care For Wild Africa is a donor-run organization that specializes in caring for wounded animals. They have a special focus on rhino and have taken in many rhino orphans from the poaching wars across South Africa at this time. Their latest orphan is Lulah, whose mother was killed in Kruger National Park. When the rangers found Lulah she was estimated to be one month old. Hyenas had attacked the tiny calf and chewed off her ears and parts of her nose, and had taken a big bite off of her rear right leg. Lulah has a full-time caregiver, Dorota Ladosz, who lives full-time with Lulah and sleeps with her in her enclosure. Care for Wild Africa has taken care of multiple rhino calves like this and today they have 27 survivors living on the property. Paying for their upkeep and their security is difficult.
Photo: Ami Vitale, for National Geographic Magazine
Nature - Second Prize, Stories, Title: Pandas Gone Wild
Ye Ye, a 16-year-old giant panda, lounges in a massive wild enclosure at a conservation center in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, China. Her two-year-old cub, Hua Yan ("Pretty Girl") was released into the wild after two years of "panda training." Her name, whose characters represent Japan and China, celebrates the friendship between the two nations.
Photo: Ami Vitale, for National Geographic Magazine
Nature - Second Prize, Stories, Title: Pandas Gone Wild
Caretaker Li Feng cradles her precious charge by the window of Bifengxia’s panda nursery, the most popular stop for visitors touring the facilities. More than 400,000 people visit each year to glimpse and snap photos of China’s most beloved baby animals.
Photo: Ami Vitale, for National Geographic Magazine
Nature - Second Prize, Stories, Title: Pandas Gone Wild
In a large forested enclosure of the Wolong Reserve, panda keepers Ma Li and Liu Xiaoqiang listen for radio signals from a collared panda training to be released to the wild. Tracking can tell them how the cub is faring in the rougher terrain up the mountain.
Photo: Bence Máté
Nature - Third Prize, Stories, Title: Now You See Me
These photos combine a well-known natural phenomenon: the starry sky and portraits of wild animals not visible to the naked eye. The series needed very accurate planning, research, and preparation as the photos were made with remote control, and no modification was possible while capturing the photos.
Photo: Bence Máté
Nature - Third Prize, Stories, Title: Now You See Me
Fallow deer walk in the silence of the night.

You can see all the winners from every category on World Press Photo’s website.
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