While we may be more accustomed to images of animals in their natural habitat claiming wildlife photography prizes; this year things look a little different. The people have spoken and a photo of a lowland gorilla and her human friend has won the People's Choice award at the London Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
The heart-warming photo was taken by Jo-Anne McArthur in Cameroon as the gorilla, Pikin, was being moved from one forest sanctuary enclosure to a new and larger one. Although the animals had been sedated for the trip, she woke up while traveling. "Luckily, she was not only very drowsy but also in the arms of her caretaker, Appolinaire Ndohoudou," writes Katie Pavid for the museum, "so she remained calm for the duration of the bumpy drive."
"I regularly document the cruelties animals endure at our hands, but sometimes I bear witness to stories of rescue, hope and redemption." McArthur says.
The primate situation in Cameroon is bleak, with poachers slaughtering the beautiful creatures to meet the demand for their meat both locally and abroad. Babies left alone when their mothers are killed either struggle to survive in the wild or are sold as pets.
Pikin had been captured to be sold but was rescued by Ape Action Africa.
Pavid explains that Ndohoudou was forced to leave his home in Chad because of civil war. "As he rebuilt his life in Cameroon, his work in protecting wild animals revived his appreciation for the natural world," she writes. In the act of caring for the gorillas he helps raise, he has built incredible bonds; some of the animals have known him for almost their whole lives.
"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," McArthur says. "No act of compassion towards them is ever too small."
The winning image will be shown in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Museum until it closes on May 28, 2018.