Gorilla Hugging Man Who Saved Her Life Photo Wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award

A sweet hug between a lowland gorilla and the man who saved her life was the people’s choice for winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice award.

Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur took the touching photo in Cameroon. Pikin, the rescued gorilla, was being moved between animal sanctuaries by her caretaker, Appolinaire Ndohoudou.

Jo-Anne McArthur, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Pinkin had been captured by poachers to be sold for bushmeat, but was saved last minute by Ape Action Africa.

Sadly, poaching for bushmeat is common practice in Cameroon and other areas of Africa and continues to threaten the critically endangered gorilla.

Baby apes are often left to die after their mothers are killed or sold as pets in the illegal wildlife trade.

In the photo McArthur caught, Pikin was being moved to a forest sanctuary and was waking up from her sedation. She woke up in Appolinaire’s arms. The two share a strong bond. Appolinaire is a refugee like Pikin, after being forced to flee his home in Chad because of civil war.




McArthur’s photo was picked the winner in the Natural History Museum‘s annual competition. It was picked from a shortlist of 24 photos from almost 50,000 entries!

The Canadian photographer is grateful for the recognition and hopes it inspires more compassion towards animals.

McArthur says, “I’m so thankful that this image resonated with people andI hope it might inspire us all to care a little bit more about animals. No act of compassion towards them is ever too small. I regularly document the cruelties animals endure at our hands, but sometimes I bear witness to stories of rescue, hope and redemption.”

Other finalists in the competition include:

Sloth hanging out by Luciano Candisani

Candisani photographed this eye-level shot of this three-toed sloth after climbing up a cecropia tree, in the Atlantic rainforest of southern Bahia, Brazil.

Sloths like to feed on the leaves of these trees and so they are often seen high up in the canopy.

Humpback whale with her calf by Ray Chin

Every year from July to late October southern humpback whales migrate north from their Antarctic feeding grounds to give birth in the warm sheltered waters off Tonga. 




Ray encountered this humpback mother and calf peacefully floating in the plankton-filled water around the island group of Vava‘u, Tonga.

After Ray gently approached them, the giants swam a bit closer to have a look at him and he captured this shot as they turned around.

Lilac-breasted roller riding on a zebra by Lakshitha Karunarathna

Karunarathna was on safari in MaasaiMara National Reserve, Kenya, when he spotted a rare sight – a colorful Lilac-breasted roller bird hitching a ride on a zebra.

Normally the birds prefer to perch high up in the foliage, but this roller spent an hour or more riding around and enjoying the occasional insect meal. Karunarathna waited patiently for the other zebras to form a striped background before taking the tight shot.

Polar bear embraces her cubs by Debra Garside

Garside waited patiently for six days near the den of a polar bear family in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada, so she could capture this shot.

Huddled in freezing cold temperatures, she caught this beautiful moment of the mother keeping her cubs warm. Garside said she took the shot in the most challenging conditions she has ever faced.

Temperatures ranged from -35 ̊C (-31 ̊F) to -55 ̊C (-67 ̊F) with high winds, making it almost impossible to avoid frostbite and keep her camera gear functioning properly.

All the photos shine a spotlight on nature and the big questions facing our planet. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award recognizes outstanding nature photography as voted on by the public.

The museum’s director, Sir Michael Dixon, said of the prize-winning photo,  “Jo-Anne’s inspirational image is a symbol of humanity’s power to protect the world’s most vulnerable species and shape a more sustainable future for life on our planet. Photographs like Jo-Anne’s are a reminder that we can make a difference, and we all have a part to play in addressing our impact on the natural world.”

McArthur’s photo is on display at the Natural History Museum until May 28, 2018.

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