A blood-spattered lioness, a gecko wrestling for its life in the grip of a snake and a slick of dead and dying herrings are among the photographs submitted to a prestigious exhibition.
The Natural History Museum has released a selection of the highly commended images for its Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which show a “planet under pressure”.
This year – the 57th exhibition – was the most competitive yet, with 50,000 entries from photographers in 95 countries.
The highly commended entries have been announced ahead of the overall winners, including the Grand Title winner, which will be announced via livestream on Tuesday 12 October.
Among them is Sergio Marijuán’s young Iberian lynx framed in the doorway of an abandoned hayloft and UK entrant Lara Jackson’s portrait, entitled Raw Moment, showing a lioness staring down the camera after feasting on a wildebeest at Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
There is also Audun Rikardsen’s image of a herring covering the surface of the sea off the coast of Norway as a result of overfishing and Wei Fu’s image of a golden tree snake coiled around a tokay gecko in a park near his home in Bangkok, Thailand.
The images are “a compelling reminder of the importance of the variety and variability of life on Earth in securing the future of our planet, revealed just ahead of the first phase of the global UN conference of COP15 on biodiversity,” a statement from the National History Museum said.
The overall winners, including the Grand Title winner, will be announced on Tuesday 12 October via a virtual awards ceremony livestream.
The exhibition of the 100 award-winning images will then open at the Natural History Museum, London, on Friday 15 October.
Chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox said: “It was the overall quality of entries that took us by surprise.
“With most travel plans cancelled over the past year, photographers seem to have spent extra time considering what gems to submit.
“There are stand-out pictures of unforgettable scenes and encounters – those unique wild moments, skillfully framed, that result from knowledge, experience and planning – but also fresh, beautiful observations of nature close to home or in close-up.
“The result is a collection of both thought-provoking images and ones that, in these dark times, remind us of the joy and wonder to be had from nature.”
Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum said that the photographs “spark curiosity and wonder,” while showcasing “the rich diversity of life on Earth”.
He said: ”Telling the story of a planet under pressure, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition illuminates the urgent challenges we face and the collective action we need to take.
“This year’s inspiring exhibition will move and empower audiences to advocate for the natural world.”