These 12 beautiful images reflect wildlife’s search for survival

Sep 7, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

These 12 beautiful images reflect wildlife’s search for survival

Sep 7, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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The Focus for Survival photography competition has announced this year’s 12 finalists. The 12 spectacular images will be featured in a calendar to raise money for conservation projects and recovering ecosystems.

Photographers were tasked with capturing images that celebrate the natural world. Entries ranged from the icy peaks of the Greater Himalayas in Pakistan to the sparkling blue of the Caribbean Sea off Dominica.

The competition was started by the charity Explorers Against Extinction and has been running since 2019. Each year has seen a growing number of entries from amateur and professional photographers all over the world.

I’d be hard-pushed to choose a favourite out of these 12 images. If you can, however, you can take part by choosing your favourite image. Visit the website to vote for the People’s Choice Award (voting closes in October).

Here are the 12 selected images:

JANUARY 2024

Nairobi King

Torie Hilley
Lion, Nairobi National Park, Kenya

It was my first morning in Kenya, and we visited the Nairobi National Park as a ‘warm-up’ for our photo safari. We honestly weren’t expecting much from the local park, but anything can happen. Our guide was chatting to us about what we could expect to see when, surprisingly, we found this male lion right by the road. He was roaring as he was walking, looking for his pride. 
The sun was just starting to rise, which created this soft light and purply colour on the ground. But the scars on his face indicated that he was potentially battling to be king. What a welcome to Kenya. 
The national park was established in 1946 and sits near the city centre with a diverse habitat. Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, the African lion calls the Nairobi National Park home. However, with habitat loss, trophy hunting, human-wildlife conflict, and poaching threatening lion populations across Africa, conservationists fear that the city’s national park is quickly losing its place as a critical habitat for wildlife. According to the Kenyan Wildlife Services, 70% of some species in the park have declined in the past 40 years due to the increasing infrastructure around and inside the park.

FEBRUARY 2024

Avalanche

Paddy Scott

K6, Karokoram, Greater Himalayas, Pakistan

An avalanche thunders down the face of the mountain. Watching these avalanches in real-time, they seem to move sedately down the mountain. This belies their destructive power. In fact, they are travelling hundreds of kilometres an hour and will clear anything in their path.
Also known as Baltistan Peak, at 7282m, the mountain dominates the head of the valley. On this expedition, our base camp was under its face, and you could feel its presence looming over you. On days like this, it was a sight to behold when it was shaking off a thick coat of snow.
I was there photographing a climbing expedition attempting a nearby unclimbed peak. Shortly after arriving at base camp, a massive fall of unseasonable snow coated all the surrounding mountains. 
As weather patterns change across the planet due to global heating, weather patterns are becoming evermore unpredictable.

MARCH 2024

Swingtime

Ria Waugh

Mountain Gorilla, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Within the mountainous cloud forests of central Africa live the last surviving Mountain Gorillas – a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla. Their sole habitat consists of a network of parks crossing the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since their discovery in 1902, their population has endured years of civil unrest, poaching, habitat loss, and disease – threats so severe that it was once thought the species might be extinct by the end of the 20th century. Despite the odds, the subspecies have made a remarkable comeback in recent years, although their continued survival depends on conservation efforts. During an unforgettable gorilla trekking expedition through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, I had the opportunity to observe these incredible creatures up close. Our trek led us to a family group with many young gorillas that were enjoying swinging through the trees. I would frequently see young gorillas, such as this one, swing above my head, followed by a crash on the forest floor as they were still developing their skills. Nevertheless, they quickly got back up and tried again. It was an extraordinary experience that highlighted the importance of protecting these magnificent animals

APRIL 2024

Water for Survival

Apurba Kumar Das

Green-tailed Sunbird, Rishop, West Bengal, India

This photo was taken in India, in Darjeeling. As we know, forest lands are decreasing day by day, resulting in conflict between humans and wildlife. Every living being needs water for survival, and that water is not easily available in all places – such as this. Some people help to conserve wildlife by providing food and water in these harsh environments – without help, in such extreme conditions, they may not survive. This sunbird was trying to quench its thirst.

MAY 2024

Sunset

Tracey Graves

Cheetah, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya

It was our first game drive at Kicheche Mara in the Mara North Conservancy. We had sat with two sleeping cheetah brothers for over an hour, and they did not seem inclined to move. I had jokingly said to our guide that it would be nice to get a silhouette of a cheetah up a tree, as there was a dead one nearby, but I did not think this was likely. As the sun went down, they slowly woke up and started to stretch, but not much else. The other few vehicles at the sighting left for sundowners, and we were rewarded with the shot I had asked for, with just enough light to play with.

JUNE 2024

The Giants

Subi Sridharan

Savannah Elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli, Kenya

It was one of those days when everything came together. Mount Kilimanjaro was partially clear, and I had been anxiously waiting for an elephant herd to arrive. The wait was worth it, and I was able to take this picture. Elephant conservation is a crucial endeavour aimed at protecting and safeguarding these majestic creatures from the numerous threats they face. Elephants are confronted with habitat loss, poaching for ivory, and conflicts with humans. Conservation efforts include establishing protected areas, implementing anti-poaching measures, promoting community involvement, and reducing human-elephant conflicts through innovative solutions. Strict laws and international collaborations are enforced to combat the illegal ivory trade. Elephant orphanages and rehabilitation centres provide care for injured and orphaned elephants, while educational programs raise awareness about the importance of elephant conservation. Preserving elephants not only ensures their survival but also safeguards ecosystems and maintains the delicate balance of nature.

JULY 2024

Cloud Walker

Torie Hilley

Coastal Brown Bear, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, USA

It was July 2022 and my first time travelling since the pandemic began. I needed a change of scenery to boost my psyche. I knew Alaska would be perfect. Every day, I slowly trudged through the sticky mud with the professional bear guide to take photos of the bears clamming on the mudflats. I was exhausted by the last day and bored of the grey skies that dominated the week. After testing different angles, I saw the sky gradually start to change colours. I bent down to hover my massive lens over the water to create a smooth foreground. Then the colours began to reflect upon the mudflats. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked as if the bear was walking on clouds. In a matter of minutes, the colours disappeared.
There was a recent win for wildlife conservation in the area. Mining companies proposed to build a massive open pit mine (known as the Pebble Mine) with heavy infrastructure in Bristol Bay, which would be too close for comfort to the Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks. However, the US Army Corps of Engineers rejected the proposal, thus, avoiding a domino effect that would have irreversibly damaged brown bear and other wildlife populations, as well as one of the last intact salmon ecosystems.

AUGUST 2024

Homeward Bound

John Leigh

Arabian Oryx, Murqquab, Dubai, UAE

The Arabian Oryx was declared extinct in the wild in 1972. They were reintroduced into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, an area of 225 km2 with the aim of providing a viable breeding population of Arabian Oryx within a diverse desert landscape. Initially, 118 individuals were introduced into the Al Maha Reserve and provided with water, supplementary feed and shelter. The scheme has been a resounding success and has added improved biodiversity, with the flora and fauna flourishing. On a 4 x 4 safari, we were lucky to come across a group heading towards a watering hole. Under a beautiful sunset sky, this is something we will never forget.

SEPTEMBER 2024

Safely Intrepid

Gabriella Comi

Cheetah Family, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A cheetah cub on a termite mound peeping out from under the long tail of his mother, displaying an intrepidness that relies on the strong feeling of safety and protection provided by mama. 
Cheetahs are the most vulnerable of big cats and are on the brink of extinction. There’s only around 7000 left in the wild. Just 10% of cheetah cubs survive to adulthood, having to face daily threats by other apex predators (e.g. lions and hyenas) and, in some areas, the highest toll to human-wildlife conflicts, often related to climate change.

OCTOBER 2024

A Flicker of Hope

Simon Hilbourne

Sperm Whales, Caribbean waters of Dominica

These two sperm whales offer a flicker of hope. Once a primary target of commercial whaling fleets, sperm whale populations were decimated by whalers looking to harvest the oil for candles, lubricants and lamps. 
Thanks to international bans on commercial whaling and increased awareness about their ecological importance, sperm whale populations appear to be rebounding in several regions. 
They still face numerous threats, from fatal collisions with ships, pollution from plastics, and chemicals, to noise pollution disrupting their communication and health. Sperms whales are evidence that when human pressures are released, nature can rebound.

NOVEMBER 2024

In the Pink or on the Brink

 Amarjeetsingh Bishnoi

Lesser Flamingos, TS Chanakya wetlands, Mumbai

Studies have shown how TS Chanakya wetlands and mangroves are critical sites for shorebirds and winter migratory species.  TS Chanakya has one of the highest congregations of shorebirds in the Thane Creek ecosystem.
Currently, these sites are facing threats from landfilling excavation, blocking tidal water movement, mangrove incursion, fishing, recreational and commercial development and other factors.
A service road project by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation was halted by the Mangrove Cell of the Maharashtra Forest Department. The excavated periphery of the wetland site now stands like an eyesore. Over the past few days, the waterbody has dried up drastically, too.
It would be a travesty and tragedy of the highest order if these wetlands were to become another anthropogenic disaster.

DECEMBER 2024

My New Toy

Celia Kujala

Steller sea lion, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia

Play is very important in the development of young Steller sea lions, and they love playing with anything that they find in their environment. When I was diving at Norris Rocks off Hornby Island, I watched this young sea lion play with a sea star. As I watched her, she swam over to me to show me her beautiful toy. I was able to capture the image just as she was presenting the sea star to me. Sadly, Steller sea lions are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. By observing their playful nature, I hope people will feel a connection with them and want to protect them and their environment.

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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