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Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards 2003 - Winner announced

Story: Jack Foley

THE winners of this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition were announced on Wednesday, October 15, at a special award ceremony held at the Natural History Museum, presented by famed ornithologist Bill Oddie.

Gerhard Schulz, of Germany, was named Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003 for his image, 'Gorilla and boy', and Iwan Fletcher, 17, of Wales, was named Young Photographer of the Year 2003 for his image, 'Sanderling resting'.

The winning image of a young boy looking through a zoo window at a majestic gorilla was among more than 20,500 entries, from over 60 countries.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the world's biggest and most prestigious wildlife photographic competition, jointly organised each year by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

British photographers enjoyed a taste of success in this year's competition with five award-winners across the 15 categories:

l Animals in their Environment - Nick Garbutt of Cumbria for Proboscis monkey leaping
l Animal Behaviour Birds - Nick Oliver of Suffolk for Barn owl - a vole's-eye view and
Rob Jordan of Northumberland for Mute swan in pursuit of an intruder
l The Underwater World - Peter Atkinson of Suffolk for Crown jellyfish
l Animal Portraits - Jeremy Woodhouse of Wales for Black-tailed jackrabbit
l Wild Places - Ines Labunksi Roberts for Waterfall, Milford Sound.

"Gorilla and boy is a picture with layers of meaning - as the best always are," said Rosamund Kidman-Cox, judge and editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine.

"It has captured a moment when the two primates appear caught in thought - the gorilla resigned and looking out of the picture and the boy seeming in earnest thought, himself incarcerated in gloom.

"It leaves you to draw the conclusions. It also proves that, to create an unforgettable image of the natural world, you don't always have to travel to far-away places.

"What you do need, though, is the foresight to see a story and an artist's eye to encapsulate it."

"This image forces us to re-evaluate our responsibility to our fellow creatures," said Sarah Kavanagh, competition manager of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

"The increased pressure from human expansion and competition for the Earth's finite resources have put not only the future of gorillas in jeopardy, but all wildlife.

"Are they only to exist as objects of our curiosity? Or can we allow them space to live freely? We hope visitors will enjoy the exhibition as a revelation of the natural world, and as custodians of our multi-faceted and irreplaceable heritage."

From the other side of the gorilla house at Miami Metrozoo in Florida, Gerhard Schultz could watch the visitors' reactions as they encountered their relatives at close quarters.

Many people came by, pointed at the lowland gorillas, and continued on their way, but this boy stopped and stared in awe. It was their expressions that made such an impression on Gerhard.

There was such a depth of feeling in the gorilla's eyes, and the boy leant against the glass as if he wanted to reach through and make contact - a poignant juxtaposition.

Currently, Gerhard is concentrating his work on the European otter and the German National Parks, such as the Bavarian Forest. In November he will return to the Everglades National Park in Florida, USA, where he has spent time over the past five years photographing ospreys.

Sanderling resting, by 17-year-old Iwan Fletcher, of Wales, shows the bird in North Wales, having recently arrived from its summer breeding ground in the high-Arctic.

It ran around in search of worms and insects, regularly probing at the ground and then stopped for a short while to rest, seeming to have actually fallen asleep. Iwan crawled closer, his camera and lens resting on the sand, and managed to get to within three metres without disturbing it.

'Gorilla and boy' and 'Sanderling resting' will join the category winners and others in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which displays all 109 winning and highly commended images from the 2003 competition.

The exhibition opened to visitors at the Natural History Museum on October 18, 2003, and runs until April 18, 2004.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition invites entries from amateur and professional photographers of all ages from across the world. The total competition prize money amounts to more than £16,500, and the judges include key figures from wildlife and photography arenas.

The competition's aim is to find the best wildlife pictures taken by photographers worldwide of all ages, showcasing the splendour, drama and variety of life on Earth.

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