Photographer Sergey Gorshkov's intimate image of an endangered Siberian tiger hugging an ancient Manchurian fir tree has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020.
The picture, called The Embrace, was captured deep in the forests of Russia's Far East with the use of motion sensor cameras. The equipment was set up in the forest and left, waiting to trigger automatically when a tiger came by.
The female tiger was rubbing her scent on the bark of the tree to leave her scent and mark territory in Leopard National Park.
"It's a scene like no other, a unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest," WPY chair of judges Roz Kidman-Cox said.
"Shafts of low winter Sun highlight the ancient fir tree and the coat of the huge tigress as she grips the trunk in obvious ecstasy and inhales the scent of tiger on resin, leaving her own mark as her message.
"It's also a story told in glorious colour and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, a symbol of the Russian wilderness. The lighting, the colours, the texture - it's like an oil painting."
The Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, is a subspecies of the big cat that can be found in the Russian Far East, northeastern China and potentially into North Korea.
Eastern Russia's tigers have been hunted to near-extinction with only a few hundred left. The Natural History Museum says that thanks to a concerted conservation effort, the number has steadily increased to potentially as many as 550.
One of their strongholds is Russia's Land of the Leopard National Park, established to protect another endangered big cat, the Amur leopard. It is in this protected reserve that Sergey managed to photograph this beautiful Siberian tiger deep within the ancient fir forests in which they live.
The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the Natural History Museum, announced the winner on Tuesday October 13th.
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