Time for my close-up! Curious meerkat among Wildlife Photo of the Year awards

Time for my close-up! Curious meerkat among Wildlife Photo of the Year awards
Time for my close-up! Curious meerkat among Wildlife Photo of the Year awards

Curious meerkats, leaping squirrels, an elusive tapir, a brown bear taking a nap in a tree next to an eagle and a tender moment between two lions.

These are some of the subjects that feature in the 25-strong shortlist for the People's Choice Award, which is part of the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Organisers sifted through more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries before deciding on a 25 image shortlist for the award and now the public is being asked to vote for the winner.

The vote opens today and closes at 2pm on Tuesday, February 2, 2022. The top-ranked photo will go on display at an exhibition in London's Natural History Museum until June 5, 2022.

Some of the photos don't make for easy viewing, though. One heartbreaking shot shows the rescue of an Amazon river dolphin and another captures a kangaroo and her joey framed by a fire's destruction.

Dr Natalie Cooper, researcher at the Natural History Museum and member of the judging panel, said: 'The People's Choice Award offers striking observations of nature and our relationship with it, sparking our curiosity and strengthening our connection with the natural world. It's an incredible challenge to pick just one of these images, so we're looking forward to discovering which wild moment emerges as the public's favourite.' 

This group of meerkats in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in South Africa are very relaxed around people. In fact, they mostly completely ignored Thomas's presence, being way too preoccupied with lounging, hunting, grooming and fighting. He was therefore able to get in close and use a wide angle lens to include the arid savannah and mountains they call home

This group of meerkats in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in South Africa are very relaxed around people. In fact, they mostly completely ignored Thomas's presence, being way too preoccupied with lounging, hunting, grooming and fighting. He was therefore able to get in close and use a wide angle lens to include the arid savannah and mountains they call home

In the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province, China, Qiang watched as two male golden pheasants continuously swapped places on this trunk ¿ their movements akin to a silent dance in the snow. The birds are native to China, where they inhabit dense forests in mountainous regions. Although brightly coloured, they are shy and difficult to spot, spending most of their time foraging for food on the dark forest floor, only flying to evade predators or to roost in very high trees during the night

In the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province, China, Qiang watched as two male golden pheasants continuously swapped places on this trunk – their movements akin to a silent dance in the snow. The birds are native to China, where they inhabit dense forests in mountainous regions. Although brightly coloured, they are shy and difficult to spot, spending most of their time foraging for food on the dark forest floor, only flying to evade predators or to roost in very high trees during the night

One morning Minghui noticed a group of ants working together in perfect unity to restrain a green katydid in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in Yunnan Province, China. These remarkable ants don't always kill, they have been observed 'farming' certain types of insects, including leaf hoppers. The ants offer leaf hoppers protection from predators and parasites so that they can feed on the sweet sap the leaf hoppers excrete

One morning Minghui noticed a group of ants working together in perfect unity to restrain a green katydid in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in Yunnan Province, China. These remarkable ants don't always kill, they have been observed 'farming' certain types of insects, including leaf hoppers. The ants offer leaf hoppers protection from predators and parasites so that they can feed on the sweet sap the leaf hoppers excrete

Iberian lynx are one of the world's most endangered cats due to habitat loss, decreasing food sources, car hits and illegal hunting. But thanks to conservation efforts the species is recovering and can be found in small areas of Portugal and Spain. Antonio captured this image while leading a conservation project based around photography in Peñalajo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain. He knew a family of lynx used this waterhole to drink, so he rigged up a hide close by

Iberian lynx are one of the world's most endangered cats due to habitat loss, decreasing food sources, car hits and illegal hunting. But thanks to conservation efforts the species is recovering and can be found in small areas of Portugal and Spain. Antonio captured this image while leading a conservation project based around photography in Peñalajo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain. He knew a family of lynx used this waterhole to drink, so he rigged up a hide close by

It was the schooling barracudas at Blue Corner, Palau, in the western Pacific, that grabbed Yung Sen Wu's attention while diving in the turquoise seascape. He had been swimming with them for four days, but their formation constantly changed shape and he could not find the perfect angle. On the fifth day his luck changed when the fish seemed to accept him into the group. Surrounded by the barracudas, he started to imagine how one fish sees another while swimming, and this was the picture he wanted. The fish were fast, and he had to swim hard to keep his place in the school. At the end of an exhausting 50 minutes, he got his perfect 'fish eye' view

It was the schooling barracudas at Blue Corner, Palau, in the western Pacific, that grabbed Yung Sen Wu's attention while diving in the turquoise seascape. He had been swimming with them for four days, but their formation constantly changed shape and he could not find the perfect angle. On the fifth day his luck changed when the fish seemed to accept him into the group. Surrounded by the barracudas, he started to imagine how one fish sees another while swimming, and this was the picture he wanted. The fish were fast, and he had to swim hard to keep his place in the school. At the end of an exhausting 50 minutes, he got his perfect 'fish eye' view

Black bear cubs will often climb trees, where they wait safely for their mother to return with food. Here, in the depths of the temperate rainforest of Anan in Alaska, this little cub decided to take an afternoon nap on a moss-covered branch under the watchful eye of a juvenile bald eagle. The eagle had been sitting in this pine tree for hours and Jeroen found the situation extraordinary

Black bear cubs will often climb trees, where they wait safely for their mother to return with food. Here, in the depths of the temperate rainforest of Anan in Alaska, this little cub decided to take an afternoon nap on a moss-covered branch under the watchful eye of a juvenile bald eagle. The eagle had been sitting in this pine tree for hours and Jeroen found the situation extraordinary

Zhang Qiang was visiting China's Qinling Mountains to observe the behaviour of the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey. When it is time to rest, the females and young huddle together for warmth and protection. This image perfectly captures that moment of intimacy. The young monkey's unmistakable blue face nestled in between two females, their striking golden-orange fur dappled in light

Zhang Qiang was visiting China's Qinling Mountains to observe the behaviour of the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey. When it is time to rest, the females and young huddle together for warmth and protection. This image perfectly captures that moment of intimacy. The young monkey's unmistakable blue face nestled in between two females, their striking golden-orange fur dappled in light

Dozens of plains zebra had showed up to drink at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Packed closely together and moving as one, the zebra lowered their heads to get water and, almost immediately, robotically lifted them again to scan for danger. This went on for five minutes. Focusing hard, Lucas's aim was to capture only one with its head up and, just before the herd left, he got the image he thinks best showcases these iconic black-and-white striped animals

Dozens of plains zebra had showed up to drink at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Packed closely together and moving as one, the zebra lowered their heads to get water and, almost immediately, robotically lifted them again to scan for danger. This went on for five minutes. Focusing hard, Lucas's aim was to capture only one with its head up and, just before the herd left, he got the image he thinks best showcases these iconic black-and-white striped animals

For grizzly bears of the spot on the Fishing Branch River in Yukon, Canada this open water offers a final chance to feast before hibernating. It was averaging around -30°C (-22°F) and Andy had been waiting and hoping that one particular female bear would use this log to cross the stream. Eventually she did just that and he got the picture he'd envisioned ¿ her fur, wet from fishing, had frozen into icicles and 'you could hear them tinkle as she walked past'

For grizzly bears of the spot on the Fishing Branch River in Yukon, Canada this open water offers a final chance to feast before hibernating. It was averaging around -30°C (-22°F) and Andy had been waiting and hoping that one particular female bear would use this log to cross the stream. Eventually she did just that and he got the picture he'd envisioned – her fur, wet from fishing, had frozen into icicles and 'you could hear them tinkle as she walked past'

During a visit to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Ashleigh McCord captured this tender moment between a pair of male lions. At first, she had been taking pictures of only one of the lions, and the rain was just a light sprinkle, although the second had briefly approached and greeted his companion before choosing to walk away. But as the rain turned into a heavy downpour, the second male returned and sat, positioning his body as if to shelter the other. Shortly after they rubbed faces and continued to sit nuzzling for some time

During a visit to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Ashleigh McCord captured this tender moment between a pair of male lions. At first, she had been taking pictures of only one of the lions, and the rain was just a light sprinkle, although the second had briefly approached and greeted his companion before choosing to walk away. But as the rain turned into a heavy downpour, the second male returned and sat, positioning his body as if to shelter the other. Shortly after they rubbed faces and continued to sit nuzzling for some time

Peter looked on as a herd of elephants closed ranks, pushing their young into the middle of the group for protection. A bull elephant had been trying to separate a newborn calf from its mother. Peter was photographing the herd in Addo Elephant Reserve, South Africa, when the newborn let out a shriek. The herd reacted instantly ¿ blowing loud calls, flapping ears and then surrounding the young and reaching out their trunks for reassurance

Peter looked on as a herd of elephants closed ranks, pushing their young into the middle of the group for protection. A bull elephant had been trying to separate a newborn calf

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