An air-guitar-playing kangaroo, a balletic otter and a topsy-turvy heron are all winners at this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.
In 1969, the musician Joe Cocker made air-guitar history on the Woodstock stage, strumming With a Little Help From my Friends into nothingness. Now, there’s a new contender for the air-guitar crown: a small, grey kangaroo from Perth, Australia, has been caught empty-handed, mid-strum, by the camerawork of Jason Moore.
The photo, entitled Air Guitar Roo, was announced the overall winner of 2023’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards this week. It also scooped the prize for the Creatures of the Land category.
“Not many people know that kangaroos are normally fairly docile and even a bit boring most of the time, if I’m honest,” says Moore. “However, when I saw this Roo striking the air guitar pose, it immediately brought a smile to my face, and I knew that I had captured something really special.”
The image had competition from 5,300 submissions from 85 countries. Other category winners included Otter Kewk’s image of “an otter ballerina”, in which a smooth coated otter performs an impressive first-arabesque in Singapore. And Vittorio Ricci’s heron taking an unexpected plunge, into a waterbody in Zimanga Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
Another double category triumph went to young photographer Jacek Stankieicz, who won both the Junior Award and the People’s Choice for his image of two greenfinches called Dispute.
Founded in 2015 by the photographers and conservationists Paul Joyson-Hicks and Tom Sullam, the photographs are a reminder of the varied, vibrant and ever-surprising creatures with which humanity shares this planet.
Yet stories from the animal world are not always so uplifting: in the last 50 years, global wildlife populations have plummeted by nearly 70% on average.
More frequent heatwaves, droughts and wildfires are also altering animal behaviours and increasing the chance of human-wildlife encounters. This might sound like good news to those hoping to spot a kangaroo in their backyard, but it is also raising the chances of conflict.
Wildlife-lovers may want to keep their eyes on proceedings at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai this December. With climate change one of the five main drivers of biodiversity loss, nations attending the summit have an opportunity to help stem this threat.
It’s a big ask, but it really would be something big to smile about.
* All photographs courtesy of Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2023.
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