Curiosity

Curiosity and the cat, by Hannes Lochner of South Africa, was joint runner-up in the Animal Portraits category in the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: cats on camera

Images of big cats always take pride of place in Wildlife Photographer of the Year. 

Here is a selection of 10 unforgettable photographs spanning nearly 20 years of the competition. Get up close to some fascinating big cats, and see intimate family moments, vital conservation stories and dramatic hunts.

First encounter - Anup Shah

Dozing in the sun at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the adult lion awakes and comes face-to-face with the newborn cub for the first time. 

Male lion looking at approaching tiny cub

First encounter, by the UK's Anup Shah, was highly commended in the Behaviour: Mammals category in 1999


It is a tense introduction. The cub's mother had just returned from giving birth to bond her cubs with the pride male.

The intensity of the stare captures the intimacy of relationships within lion prides.

Snowstorm leopard - Steve Winter

Living at high altitudes, snow leopards are some of the world's most elusive cats.

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Snowstorm leopard, by Steve Winter of the USA, was Grand title winner and winner of the Gerald Durrell award for endangered wildlife in 2008


Steve spent nearly a year in the mountains of northern India and used a remote-controlled camera to take his Grand title-winning image for the 2008 competition.

He says, 'I was thrilled to have finally captured the shot I had dreamed of: a wild snow leopard in its true element.'

The moment - Bridgena Barnard

Big-cat hunts are a popular subject among entrants to Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

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The moment, by South African photographer Bridgena Barnard, won the Behaviour: Mammals category in 2010


Ambushing from the top of a dune, three cheetahs sprint after the young springbok - one heads it off, one trips it up and the third makes the kill.

Bridgena's image of the cheetahs at full tilt and in pursuit of their prey captures the energy of a high-speed hunt.

Last look - Steve Winter

In this powerful image the Sumatran tiger stands framed in the light of the forest clearing.

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Last look, part of Steve Winter's story The Tiger's Tale, won the 2012 Wildlife Photojournalist Award


Sumatran tigers are under threat from loss of habitat due to palm oil plantations and from poaching for body parts used in traditional medicine.

Steve says, 'My aim was to try to document the beauty of tigers, the serious threats they face and the heroic efforts to protect them.'

Steve's work demonstrates the need to protect the Sumatran tiger population - their Javan and Balinese relatives are already extinct.

The spat - Joe McDonald

In the sultry heat of Brazil's Pantanal, a female jaguar reacts explosively to a male's approach. Claws outstretched, she charges and drives him back into the undergrowth.

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The spat, by Joe McDonald of the USA, took the prize the Behaviour: Mammals category in 2013


The conflict was over in a flash before the pair disappeared into the trees, leaving photographer Joe McDonald with this memorable image from the 2013 competition.

Joe says, 'I couldn't believe the energy and intensity of those three seconds.'

The last great picture - Michael 'Nick' Nichols

Five female lions rest with their cubs on a rocky outcrop in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, the plains and dramatic skies stretching out at their backs. 

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The last great picture, by the USA's Michael 'Nick' Nichols, won the Grand title and the Black and White category in 2014.


To capture his Grand title-winning image in 2014, Nick positioned himself close to the pride, accustomed to his presence after six months on their tail.

Nick says, 'Photographing the lions in infrared cuts through the dust and haze, transforms the light and turns the moment into something primal, biblical almost.'

Broken cats - Britta Jaschinski

Drugged, with their teeth and claws removed, the cats in this photograph are controlled by spiked poles during a show at the Seven Star Park in Guilin, southern China, in 2012.

Broken Cats, Seven Star Park, Animal Performance, Guilin, China,

Broken cats, by Britta Jaschinski of Germany/the UK, won the Wildlife Photojournalist Award: single image category in 2015


The Photojournalist Award: Single Image category challenges photographers to illustrate how our attitudes, decisions and actions impact the natural world.

Of her image, category winner Britta says, 'This was truly an arena of broken animals.'

The alley cat - Nayan Khanolkar

The leopard makes its way cautiously down the alley in the glow of street lights in a Mumbai suburb.

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The alley cat, by Nayan Khanolkar of India, won in the Urban Wildlife category in 2016


Nayam waited for four months before achieving this image, taken with a camera trap, of his subject at home in its urban environment.

For the local Warli people, leopards are accepted members of the neighbourhood, and are often depicted in traditional paintings that decorate their homes.

Glimpse of a lynx - Laura Albiac Vilas

One of the world's most endangered big cats, the Iberian lynx is confined to two small populations in southern Spain.

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Glimpse of a lynx, by Spanish photographer Laura Albiac Vilas, was a finalist in the 11-14 Years Old category in 2017


Laura Albiac Vilas encountered a pair of lynx resting not far from the road on a visit to the Sierra de Andújar Nature Park.

Laura says, 'I felt huge respect to be so close to them and to observe them so peacefully.'