Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013

Over the weekend Zee and I visited The Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

It's something the NHM does every year (currently in it's 49th year!). Open to both amateurs (they have a junior award too, this years winner of the junior category was barely 14!) + professionals, and judged by a few big name, industry-recognised professionals, the outcome is phenomenal.

It all feels very dramatic, and some of the shots are incredibly intimate. Detailed, and breath taking.

All in all, it would have been a phenomenal experience, if not for all of the people. I feel like I should have known better, and aimed for a 'be there bang on open time' rather than a leisurely after lunch affair.

It felt claustrophobic, everyone was pushing and shoving, and asking silly questions/drawing obvious conclusions out loud. There was no clear route for people to move through, to see the exhibition. Which meant where all bunched up with nowhere to go, pushing past the crowds was the bane of the exhibition.

I was too close to too many strangers to really enjoy it. You know what I did enjoy?

Viewing the images later, from the comfort of my own home thanks to the magic of the internet. Which you can do here.

There are around 100 gorgeous images in this exhibition. Here are some of my favourites:

The best thing about the exhibition though, was reading the blurb under each amazing shot. The overall message?

Humans, with their over crowding and pollution and greed, are the sole cause of most animal species extinction or population decline.

We're either polluting their environment, or removing their habitat, or killing them for pretty things or wistful hope.

This super cute little turtle? He's an endangered green turtle from the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. At certain times of the year, a yellowish alga covers some of the seagrass that our turtle eats. The suspicion is that the algal growth is the result of sewage from the resort, which has already affected the coral. What is clear is that the turtles avoid eating it.

Awesome.

Or this shot. Where sting rays gills have become highly desirable in the Chinese medicine trade. The higher value has meant huge, and super unsustainable catches happen in Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka to feed the demand.

These animals are slow breeders, don't mate till they're 15, and might only birth a pup once every two or three years. Because they're relatively easy to spot and they live in large groups and visit regular feeding grounds whole populations are easily wiped out.

Not cool.

Or these shots, which document the ivory trade. For any ivory piece, and elephant had to die. The exhibition said: "The world’s largest ivory-carving factory in Beijing employs more than 40 artisans. ‘Ivory carving is seen as an ancient art to be proud of,’ says Brent. ‘The business is worth half a billion dollars annually and the people who profit don’t want it to end.’ China is the biggest importer of illegal ivory. The consumers buy as an investment and for the promise of good fortune."

It's insane to see these pictures of dead animals, brutally butchered, side by side for nothing more than pretty ivory trinkets.

Even worse were these shots of the Xingu River in Brazil. By damming the river for a hydroelectric project, the ecological and social cost will include loss of rainforest and biodiversity, and the displacement of 20,000-40,000 indigenous people. What. The. Fuck. Brazil.

At this point, you're meant to go - here's a terrible terrible thing. And HERE is what you can do to help stop/prevent/change this terrible terrible thing. Or things, in this case. But I'm at a loss, while the exhibition raised an awareness, it didn't have a call. There was no call to do anything.

Do I support WWF? In the hope that by throwing my money and time that way it will eventually dribble down to help some of these creatures? (WWF comes to mind because David Attenborough is doing the rounds with his new show about the NHM, and it's one of his preferred wild life charities).

Is there someone else I should support? Something I can do?

What do you think - I've shown you some terrible things. What do we do about it?