A young male leopard (Panthera pardus) in China’s Shuishui River Reserve is this year’s contest winner. Photo by: Zhou Zhefeng/BBC Wildlife Magazine.
The third annual BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera Trap Photo of the Year contest has produced some stunning and surprising images, including a snow leopard sticking its tongue out, a rare giant pangolin, and wrestling monitor lizards. But the winner this year was the perfect shot of a young leopard in China.
“Our project researches leopard distribution in the forest reserves of Shanxi Province. In the Shuishui River Reserve, images from a camera-trap on a known leopard path have so far enabled us to identify four individuals, including this youngster,” said photographer Zhou Zhefeng of his winning photo, which won his conservation program nearly $5,000 in prize money.
Photos appear in the new issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.
This photo, along with other winners and runner-ups, are featured in the December issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, which is on sale now.
Camera trap photography is a unique art form. Used most often be researchers to study rare and cryptic animals, camera traps take photos of wildlife when humans are absent. These specially designed cameras use motion sensor or infrared to snap photos and have been used to document never-before-seen behavior, catalogue wildlife populations, and even discover unknown species. However, years of wonderful—and often scientifically important—photos has increasingly led photographers to recognize camera trap photos as an art form in itself.
Split into three categories: portraits, behavior, and new discoveries, other winners in the contest include the rare image of a Bengal tiger feeding on a rhino carcass in India (behavior) and the photo of a small cat known as the oncilla in Bolivia (new discoveries). Both of these photos won over $1,500 for their respective conservation projects. Money prizes are donated by the World Land Trust and Páramo Directional Clothing Systems.
A horned guan (Oreophasis derbianus) in Guatemala. Not a guan at all, this bird is the last survivor of a family of birds. It’s listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Javier Rivas/BBC Wildlife Magazine.
A Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) feeding on the carcass of an Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) in India. Photo by: Sandesh Kadur/BBC Wildlife Magazine.
The little known moonrat (Echinosorex gymnura) photographed in Malaysian Borneo. Although it looks like a weird, white rat these animals are actually more closely related to hedgehogs. The moonrat is the only species in its genus, Echinosorex. Although imperiled by deforestation, it is currently listed as Least COncern by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: A.J. Hearn and J. Ross/BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Wolf looking down onto traffic from a wildlife overpass. This photo was selected as one of the editor’s favorites. Photo by: Mirjam Barrueto/BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Spitting sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) in India. This species is considered Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: WWF-India/BBC Wildlife Magazine.
(02/14/2012) I must confess to a recent addiction: camera trap photos. When the Smithsonian released 202,000 camera trap photos to the public online, I couldn’t help but spend hours transfixed by the private world of animals. There was the golden snub-monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), with its unmistakably blue face staring straight at you, captured on a trail in the mountains of China. Or a southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), a tree anteater that resembles a living Muppet, poking its nose in the leaf litter as sunlight plays on its head in the Peruvian Amazon. Or the dim body of a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) led by jewel-like eyes in the Tanzanian night. Or the less exotic red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which admittedly appears much more exotic when shot in China in the midst of a snowstorm. Even the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), an animal I too often connect with cartoons and stuffed animals, looks wholly real and wild when captured by camera trap: no longer a symbol or even a pudgy bear at the zoo, but a true animal with its own inner, mysterious life.
(11/12/2012) Remote camera traps, which take photos or video when a sensor is triggered, have been increasingly used to document rare and shy wildlife, but now conservationists are taking the technology one step further: detecting poachers. Already, camera traps set up for wildlife have captured images of park trespassers and poachers worldwide, but for the first time conservationists are setting camera traps with the specific goal of tracking illegal activity.
(10/25/2012) South America’s rare and little-known bush dog (Speothos venaticus) looks like a miniature dachshund who went bad: leaner, meaner, and not one to cuddle on your lap, the bush dog is found in 11 South American countries, but scientists believe it’s rare in all of its habitats, which include the Amazon, the Pantanal wetlands, and the cerrado savannah. Given its scarcity, little is known about its wanderings.
(09/10/2012) Camera traps placed in a corridor connecting two forest fragments have revealed (in stunning visuals) the importance of such linkages for Borneo’s imperiled mammals and birds. Over 18 months, researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) have photographed wildlife utilizing the corridor located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.
(08/12/2012) With the help of remote camera traps, wildlife rangers have confirmed that the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) still inhabits the Leuser ecosystem in northern Sumatra, making the forest the only place on the Earth where Sumatran tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinos survive in a single ecosystem, though all remain Critically Endangered.
(07/25/2012) The short-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla) once inhabited a range including the mountainous regions of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, but today the species survives in only a handful of areas in northern Chile and Argentina. Worse still, evidence of the Argentinean populations are restricted to remains discovered in the droppings of their natural predators. But, since 2011, Pablo Valladares from the University of Tarapaca in conjunction with the National Forestry Corporation of Chile (CONAF) has been searching Tres Cruces National Park for previously undocumented populations, and it has finally paid off: Valladares and colleagues discovered two new colonies with remote camera traps.
(05/08/2012) Ever wonder what it would be like to be charged by a male gorilla? A new video (below) released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), gives one a first hand look. Shot in Cameroon’s Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, the video is the first camera trap footage of the incredibly rare Cross River gorilla subspecies (Gorilla gorilla diehli); listed as Critically Endangered, the subspecies is believed to be down to only 250 individuals.
(03/12/2012) Remote camera traps, which have become a hugely important conservation tool on land during the past decade, have now gone underwater. Marine biologists have used underwater video camera traps to compare the population of Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezii) in Belize’s protected areas versus fishing areas in a new study in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Conducted from 2005-2010, the study found that reef sharks benefited significantly from conservation areas.