The Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2023 recognizes local and international photographers who capture critical moments in the natural world, from sightings of rare creatures and phenomena to highlighting conservation issues.
Based in India, the winners of the 2023 awards were presented their awards during a ceremony on July 29th in Bangalore. A six-member jury composed of wildlife and environmental specialists selected the winning photographs for each category from a pool of 24,000 images that were submitted by approximately 1,500 photographers.
Some of the noteworthy winners include the “Conservation Focus” category winner, Hiren Pagi, who captured a birds-eye view of India’s Vishwamitri River featuring mugger crocodiles. Every once in a while, news sites report that a dead crocodile was found in the Vishwamitri River, a body of water that consists of approximately 270 mugger crocodiles.
The image, titled Cry Me A River, captures the conditions in which these reptiles coexist with humans. The river has become a dumping yard for nearby establishments and drainage water. The photo highlights the threats of habitat loss and pollution that currently face this species.
Another noteworthy winner is one of the Animal Portraits winners titled The Bonobo and His Pet by Christian Ziegler. The image depicts a bonobo embracing a mongoose pup near the Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the WWF, the bonobo is a species of great ape that shares 98.7% of its DNA with humans.
Currently, an endangered species, the bonobo depicted in the photo has caught a mongoose pup and appears to be looking after it like a pet. He reportedly released the pup unharmed, a behavior that has only been recorded once before.
A unique photo was captured by a photographer in the Animal Portraits category who received a special mention, Tom Shlesinger, and his photo of the Atlantic goliath grouper. These massive fish can live for dozens of years and grow approximately 8 feet long.
Also able to weigh up to approximately 800 pounds, the photographer found the groupers surrounded by silvery schools of bigeye scads on one of his dives. The photo, titled A Face in the Crowd, captures one of the groupers swimming through a swirling tunnel of the smaller fish.
Conservation Focus special mention by Liton Paul titled Taking on the Grey Ghost depicts a snow leopard feasting on its catch when a pack of feral dogs attempts to steal its meal. Feral dogs, a common sight in the Spiti Valley, are known for attacking blue sheep, red foxes, and Himalayan ibex.
The image, which captures the moment when the felid steps towards one of the dogs during a standoff, highlights how the feral dog population reduces the prey base for snow leopards in the area. Feral dogs are also known for spreading fatal diseases to surrounding species of wild animals such as canine distemper.
A rare animal sighting was captured in a special mention for the Wildscape & Animals category by photographer Sergey Gorshkov. The photo, titled The Rarest of Them All, depicts one of the rarest cats in the world – the Amur leopard. This critically endangered felid currently faces many population threats, including poaching for its fur. Though suitable habitats are currently present across China and Russia, this species is also threatened by the scarcity of its prey animals.
A shot from a unique perspective was also captured by the Animal Portraits winner, Suliman Alatiqi. His photo captured a photo of a seabird called the brown booby, which spends a significant portion of its life in the open ocean. Known for their clumsiness on land, their name is derived from the Spanish word bobo meaning stupid or daft.
Known for the way they forage for food in the sea, these birds plunge-dive to trap and feed on a variety of fish including sardines, shrimp, anchovies, and squid. By watching the individual birds dipping their heads underwater in short intervals, the photographer was able to get into an underwater perspective to capture a rare photo of the bird from the perspective of its prey.