Whee! Animals Have Fun and Act Silly in Award-Winning Photos

A bear plays peek-a-boo and a prairie dog scares off a bald eagle.

two ground squirrels in Hungary

Roland Kranitz / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

Ground squirrels toss each other in the air. A baby bear plays peek-a-boo. An elephant takes a happy mud bath.

Just a day in the life for these animals, but wildlife photographers snapped some very entertaining images of these silly moments.

Those are some of the winners in the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

One of the highly commended winners includes "I Got You" above, featuring two ground squirrels or spermophiles. Roland Kranitz of Hungary took the award-winning image.

He says, "I spent my days in my usual 'gopher place' and yet again, these funny little animals haven't belied their true nature."

That was one of about 7,000 entries in the annual contest that first started in 2015. It was co-founded by photographers Paul Joynson-Hicks and Tom Sullam who wanted a competition that would focus on the lighter side of wildlife photography while supporting wildlife conservation.

Each year, the competition supports a charity that works to protect a vulnerable species. This year, the competition is donating 10% of its total net revenue to Save Wild Orangutans. The charity protects orangutan populations and forest biodiversity in and around Gunung Palung National Park, Borneo.

There were all sorts of amusing entries this year.

"We had a lot of birds this year, doing funny things, flying into branches, strutting about or squawking at each other," Michelle Woods, awards managing director, tells Treehugger. "Perhaps as a result of lockdown and the lack of global travel we have had to look around us for wildlife inspiration, but it has been a marvel to see the different varieties."

But the end goal is always comedy, Woods says.

"The winners are judged by our panel, and we always advise them to vote for the ones that make them laugh the most, as the quality of the photos has already been assessed in the previous shortlist, so for the winners it is all about the comedy!"

Here's a look at many of the winners.

Overall Winner

monkey on a rope

Ken Jensen / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021


Ken Jensen won the overall honors for this image of a golden silk monkey in Yunnan, China.

He describes his image: "This is actually a show of aggression however in the position that the monkey is in it looks quite painful!"

The monkeys roam freely in the forest area where the photo was taken and were not at all afraid of humans.

"I was absolutely overwhelmed to learn that my entry had won, especially when there were quite a number of wonderful photos entered," Jensen said. "The publicity that my image has received over the last few months has been incredible, it is such a great feeling to know that one’s image is making people smile globally as well as helping to support some fantastically worthwhile conservation causes."

Creatures of the Land Winner  

prairie dog and eagle

Arthur Trevino / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"Ninja Prairie Dog!"

Arthur Trevino photographed this encounter between a bald eagle and a prairie dog in Longmont, Colorado. Fortunately for the prairie dog, it was a happy ending.

"When this Bald Eagle missed on its attempt to grab this prairie dog, the prairie dog jumped towards the eagle and startled it long enough to escape to a nearby burrow. A real David vs Goliath story!"

Creatures in the Air and People’s Choice Winner

pigeon with leaf on face

John Speirs / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"I guess summer's over"

John Speirs won two categories for his photo of a pigeon taken in Scotland.

"I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on the bird's face."

Creatures Under the Water Winner

otter mom and baby

Chee Kee Teo / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"Time for school"

Chee Kee Teo captured this moment in Singapore.

"A smooth-coated otter 'bit' its baby otter to bring it back to and fro for swimming lesson."

Portfolio Winner  

elephant in mud bath

Vicki Jauron / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

The Joy of a Mud Bath

As part of her winning portfolio, Vicki Jauron had a series of photos of an elephant in Matusadona Park, Zimbabwe, taking a mud bath.

"An elephant expresses his joy in taking a mud bath against the dead trees on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe on a hot afternoon."

Highly Commended Winners

cubs dancing

Andy Parkinson / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"Let's dance"

Andy Parkinson photographed brown bear cubs on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Far East Russia.

"Two Kamchatka bear cubs square up for a celebratory play fight having successfully navigated a raging torrent (small stream!)"

fish jumping

Chu han lin / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"See who jumps high"

Chu han lin saw these mudskippers in Taiwan.

bald eagle crashes into tree

David Eppley / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"Majestic and Graceful Bald Eagle"

David Eppley photographed this bald eagle in southwest Florida with a not-so-graceful aerial maneuver.

"Eagles will use the same nest for years, even decades, adding new material to it at the beginning and throughout the nesting season. Normally, they are highly skilled at snapping branches off of trees while in flight. Possibly tired from working nonstop all morning on a new nest, this particular Bald Eagle wasn't showing its best form. Yes, sometimes they miss. Although this looks painful, and it might very well be, the eagle recovers with just a few sweeping wing strokes, and choses to rest a bit before making another lumber run. "

Indian chameleon on a branch

Gurumoorthy K / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

"The Green Stylist"

Gurumoorthy K captured this Indian chameleon in the Western Ghats mountains in India.

monkey hugging a tree

Jakub Hodan / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021


Jakub Hodan found this proboscis monkey in Borneo.

"This Proboscis monkey could be just scratching its nose on the rough bark, or it could be kissing it. Trees play a big role in the lives of monkeys. Who are we to judge..."

(Editor's note: We're fond of this title!)

kangaroos fighting

Lea Scaddan / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021


Lea Scadden spotted these kangaroos in Perth, West Australia.

"Two Western Grey Kangaroos were fighting and one missed kicking him in the stomach."

raccoon trying to get into a window

Nicolas de Vaulx / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021

How do you get that damn window open?

Nicolas de Vaulx captured an image of this eavesdropping raccoon in France.

"This raccoon spends his time trying to get into houses out of curiosity and perhaps also to steal food."

brown bear playing hide and seek on a tree

Pal Marchhart / Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2021


Pal Marchhart managed to spot this brown bear in the Hargita Mountains of Romania.  

"A young bear descending from a tree looks like he/she is playing hide and seek."