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15 incredible wildlife photos that'll make your jaw drop

13 December 2016 - 18:48 By Staff reporter

Thousands of unbelievable nature photographs were entered into the Sunday Times Wilderness Photograph of the Year competition 2016. These 15 represent the best of the best.

The photographers who snapped them are in the running to win one of two fantastic grand prizes, valued at a total of R553,000, courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Canon.

Which photo do you think will be crowned the Sunday Times Wilderness Photograph of the Year? Predict the winner by liking your favourite on Facebook and you could win R1,000.

Then grab a copy of the Sunday Times on Sunday, December 18 — when the overall winner will be revealed — to see if your prediction was right.


Category winner, May 2016: Wildlife Behaviour — “The day before the rains came to the park to end the long drought in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, this crocodile (one of six in the water) lay in ambush. Once an impala came within striking range, the crocodile leapt out of the water. This was one of five strikes I witnessed that morning.”

Image: John Mullineux


Category winnner, June 2016: Wildlife Behaviour —  This opportunistic male cheetah took on more than he bargained for when trying to take down this male Grant’s gazelle in Ndutu, Tanzania. After wrestling for a few minutes, the gazelle broke free and ran off.

Image: Gary Cusins


Category winner, July 2016: Wildlife Behaviour —  This solitary and shy Cape hare was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape, feeding on a dandelion seedhead, “an event not often seen in the wild”.

Image: John M Vosloo


Category winner, August 2016: Wildlife Behaviour — A martial eagle, the largest African eagle, feasts on a hadeda near Lower Sabie, Kruger National Park, South Africa. The species' status is vulnerable.

Image: Craig Morrison


Category winner, September 2016: Wildlife Behaviour — A young female cub peers from behind a trunk at her growling father who is protecting his kill up in the tree. Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Mpumalanga.

Image: Lee-Anne Robertson



Category winner, October 2016: Wildlife Behaviour  — “Observing a troop of baboons near Phalaborwa, Kruger National Park, I noticed a very tiny baby, probably born in the past 12 hours,” says Lisl Moolman. “The interaction between mother and baby was fascinating. She looked down at her newborn for long periods, while other troop members slowly approached the pair and stared at the baby, almost as if in awe.

Image: Lisl Moolman


Category winner, November 2016: Wildlife Behaviour — Box jellyfish, Atlantic ocean, Cape Town, South Africa. “Over years of exploring Cape Town’s aquatic world, I have on a few occasions found large aggregations of box jellyfish. However, I have shared my work with lead researchers in the country and the reasons for these aggregations are yet to be documented,” says Geo Cloete. “On this day I observed these animals form towering columns – swirling together, like a tornado, as they moved higher. Box jellyfish are known to have elaborate mating rituals and these aggregations might be related to this. Further studies must still be conducted.”

Image: Geo Cloete


Category winner, May 2016: Endangered Africa —  Two black rhino swimming at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha, Namibia. “These creatures are under serious threat all because of their horns, which are extremely valuable due to baseless beliefs,” says the photographer.

Image: Michael Viljoen


Category winner, June 2016: Endangered Africa —  The moving silhouette of miraculous poaching survivor Thandi at Kariega Game Reserve, Eastern Cape. Southern white rhinos like Thandi are heavily targeted by poachers across southern Africa.

Image: Neil Aldridge


Category winner, August 2016: Wildlife Behaviour — A tawny eagle in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park claims its territory by “making a huge noise” when a rival tries to land next door.

Image: Louise Victor.


Category winner, August 2016: Endangered Africa — Sitting at a cave entrance, a sub-Antarctic fur seal enjoys the sun and looks out at the sea at Marion Island, Southern Ocean. “The local fur seals – Antarctic and sub-Antarctic – have rebounded fantastically after being severely hunted for their pelts.”

Image: John Dickens


Category winner, September 2016: Endangered Africa — "This rarely seen ground pangolin uses its strong sense of smell and extraordinarily long, sticky tongue to catch ants and termites,” according to Nicky Souness. “Pangolins are increasingly victims of the illegal wildlife trade, killed for their meat and scales."

Image: Nicky Souness


Category winner, October 2016: Endangered Africa —  A ground pangolin captured by a lion pride in Tswalu, Kalahari. Pangolins are the world’s most illegally trafficked animal. Pictured is its defence, rolling into a ball, to keep its delicate underparts protected by its impenetrable scales. “It is rare to see a pangolin, but to see one beating the attack of Africa's largest predator was special indeed,” says Lance van de Vyver.

Image: Lance van de Vyver


Category winner, November 2016: Endangered Africa —  Quiver tree forest, southern Namibia. “A wonderful moment waiting for the sunrise in this beautiful part of the world, conveying a magnificent landscape to experience and remember,” says Evelyn Gibson. Rare and listed as vulnerable, quiver trees grow up to two or three centuries old. They are threatened by rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall.

Image: Evelyn Gibson


Public choice winner / July 2016 category finalist — A magical moment as a butterfly comes eye to eye with a beautiful lion on the banks of the Chobe river, Botswana.

Image: William Steel

• November ‘Endangered Africa’ winner Athol Moult unfortunately had to withdraw his photograph. The judges have reassigned the R2,000 cash prize to Evelyn Gibson, the month’s runner-up.