A heart-warming image of a gentle moment between a gorilla and one of her rescuers is the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award.
Almost 20,000 nature fans voted, and Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur's shot, Pikin and Appolinaire, emerged as the favourite.
Jo-Anne's image was chosen from a shortlist of 24, selected by the Natural History 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 Natural History Museum in London 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. Such is the case with the story of Pikin and Appolinaire, a beautiful moment between friends.'
The winning image depicts conservation in action and highlights our connection with our fellow apes. Pikin, the lowland gorilla, had been captured and removed from her habitat to be sold for bushmeat, but was rescued by Ape Action Africa. Jo-Anne took her intimate photograph as Pikin was being moved from one enclosure to another. The gorilla awoke from sedation during the transfer but remained calm for the bumpy drive, resting drowsily in the arms of her human companion, Appolinaire.
Like Pikin, Appolinaire Ndohoudouwas 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.
Director of the Natural History Museum, Sir Michael Dixon, says, 'Like our blue whale, Hope, has become, 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.'
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the Natural History Museum's annual showcase of the world's best nature photography and photojournalism. Seen by millions of people all over the world, the images shine a spotlight on nature photography as an art form as well as challenge us to address the big questions facing our planet. The 2018 competition's entries are currently being judged by an esteemed panel of experts, and the winners will be revealed in October.
Images © Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Check out the four finalists for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award below: