Wildlife Photographer of the Year: How Many Crocodiles Can You See?

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Dritiman Mukherjee / WPY / NHM

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Father’s Pride: Hatching clings to the back of a gharial man in Chambal National Reserve, India

How many crocodiles can you count in this picture? A hundred, perhaps?

You are forgiven for doing the double take because you didn’t immediately record that this antral alligator’s back was completely covered in her pups.

The photo was taken by expert photographer Dritman Mukherjee. His photo, captured in India’s Champal National Reserve, was highly praised in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) competition.

Each of these youngsters needs to survive into adulthood and reproduce.

Freshwater gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is critically endangered. Where there would once have been more than 20,000 animals across South Asia, it has now decreased to fewer than 1,000 mature individuals – three-quarters of these species are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh Reserve.

“This male had mated with seven or eight females, and you can see that he was very involved,” Dreithman explained. He told BBC News: “Usually a gary is a shy crocodile compared to saltwater and swamp alligators. But this crocodile was very protective, and if I got too close, it would cost me that. It could be very aggressive.”

The guari male has a wonderful bulge at the end of its snout that reminds us of a round ceramic bowl, or “gara” in Hindi.

“It’s a structure that allows vocal sounds to be amplified,” said Patrick Campbell, chief reptile curator at the Natural History Museum in London who runs the prestigious WPY competition.

“Other crocodiles hold their young in their mouths. Very cautiously of course! But for gharial, the unusual formation of the snout means this is not possible. So the young have to hold on to the head and back for this close contact and protection.”

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Dreitmann is my director

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Another view from the sequence of photos taken by Dreitmann Mukherjee

Gharial degradation is a familiar story of habitat loss.

This was driven mainly by dams and barrages that disrupted the flow of rivers. Sand extraction and rock removal restricted nesting opportunities. Then there is the perennial problem of being trapped in fishing gear.

It seems like the “background and launch” software has at least stopped these types of edge bypass. But a major effort is needed now if this exceptional animal has a long-term future.

Dhritiman hopes to be able to help motivate this endeavor by relating the emotions displayed in his photos to the science required to maintain success.

Other than that, the only place you’ll be able to see garry will be in museums – like embalming specimens, like those on the NHM.

Dhritiman’s photo at the top of this page has been highly praised in Behavior: amphibians and reptiles WPY class.

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Patrick Campbell

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The NHM contains a number of antral specimens that were brought into its collections during the colonial era

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Warning: If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you will see a spider.

The winners of the 2020 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition – Grand Prizes and Category Winners – will be announced on October 13th.

However, due to the global impact of Covid-19, the award ceremony will take place online. This well-known TV anchor will be hosting Chris Packham with Megan McCobin.

The Natural History Museum’s popular WPY exhibition, featuring the best photos, is set to continue as usual from October 16. Tickets are on sale this week.

Twenty is the 56th year for WPY. The competition was started by BBC Wildlife Magazine, then called Animals, in 1965. It is now fully regulated by the NHM.

Bird image by Alessandra MenikonziImage copyright
Alessandra Menikonze / WPY / NHM

Also highly praised (Behavior: birdsThis year is this photo of yellow trees battling the winds high in the Alpstein Mountains in the Swiss Alps. Alessandra Menikonzi captured the perfectly framed silhouettes of birds. Anyone who’s been skiing in the Alps has likely seen these animals because they often seek out neglected human food around the vacation resorts. Alessandra said their shouting was “so loud and insistent in the dramatic scene, it was like being in an action movie.”

Spider photo by Jimmy CulebrasImage copyright
Jamie Culebras / WPY / NHM

If you dare look … this somewhat shocking photo is of a large wandering spider making a meal out of an egg from a giant glass frog. The photo was taken by Spanish photographer Jaime Culebras in a stream in the Manduraco Sanctuary in northwest Ecuador. To consume the egg, the spider injects digestive juices and then absorbs the liquid products. The spider female, whose leg measures 8 cm, spent more than an hour in front of Jimmy’s camera lens devouring frog eggs. This particular photo has been praised in Behavior: Invertebrates Category.

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