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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 53: People's Choice winner

A moment of budding connection between a man and a lowland gorilla has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice award.

Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur took the photo in Cameroon, as this rescued gorilla was being moved between animal sanctuaries.

The People's Choice award recognises outstanding competition entries, as voted on by the public.

Jo-Anne's image was chosen from a shortlist of 24, selected by staff at the Museum from almost 50,000 entries submitted for the 2017 competition. The picture will be showcased in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Museum until it closes on 28 May

Jo-Anne says, 'I'm so thankful that this image resonated with people and I 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.' 

A touching moment 

The winning image depicts conservation in action and highlights our connection with our fellow apes. Pikin, the lowland gorilla pictured, had been captured to be sold for bushmeat but was rescued by Ape Action Africa.

Primate poaching is rife in Cameroon. Hunters slaughter the wild animals in order to sell their meat both in their country of origin and abroad.

Baby apes are often left orphaned after their mothers are killed, and either die in the wild or are sold as pets.

Jo-Anne captured this photo as Pikin was being moved from her former enclosure within a safe forest sanctuary to a new and larger one, along with a group of gorilla companions.

Although Pikin was first sedated, she awoke during the transfer. Luckily, she was not only very drowsy but also in the arms of her caretaker, Appolinaire Ndohoudou, so she remained calm for the duration of the bumpy drive.

Like Pikin, Appolinaire was forced from his home, having fled Chad because of a civil war. As he rebuilt his life in Cameroon, his work in protecting wild animals revived his appreciation for the natural world. He has built loving relationships with the gorillas he helps to rear - some of these animals have known him almost all their lives.

Jo-Anne says, 'An unfortunate side effect of these rescues is that the babies must be reared by humans, meaning they become habituated and cannot be reintroduced into the wild. 

See the exhibition

Visit Wildlife Photographer of the Year to enjoy the world’s best nature photography, from intimate portraits to dramatic landscapes.